The Corona Crisis in Dentistry – A Personal View from Sweden

June 10, 2020 by Maureen Braatz, DDS

By Per Ekblom and Cecilia Omo, Swedish Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry

As you may know, Sweden was hit badly in the early stages of the pandemic spreading throughout Europe. The reason for this was the Swedish winter holiday “Sportlov,” which includes a week off from school for all kids ages 6-18. During this week, a lot of Swedish families fly to the Alps for some serious downhill skiing. Northern Italy is among the most popular places for Swedish skiers due to the easy access by plane but also for the Italian culture, good food, and hospitality. At the time of the Stockholm Sportlov at the end of February, big parts of Northern Italy were already infested with coronavirus, but awareness of the severity and spread was almost completely lacking.

At that time, none of the Swedish authorities had sounded the alarm, which meant no travel restrictions had been implemented. The impact on Swedes who socialized after skiing was devastating--when the Swedes returned to Stockholm, the virus spread like wildfire. Another example is that of Per Ekblom, a co-author of this piece. He was infected during travel to the International Dental Foundation in Courchevel, France. 

Dentists in Sweden received their first restrictions in the middle of March (the WHO announced the pandemic on March 11). It started with a request sent from the Swedish government to all dental offices in Sweden. All dentists were requested to send their stock of disinfectant, gloves, and face masks, to the main hospitals in Sweden. Many dentists followed this request. Almost immediately, patients also began to cancel appointments on a grand scale.

By the middle of March, appointments were reduced by more than half in most of the dental offices in Stockholm. The public dental offices, folktandvården, were completely shut down due to lack of PPE and cancellations.  Most private practitioners had to furlough their clinic staff, which was made possible due to a lot of financial help from the central government. Despite all this, dentists in Sweden have handled minimizing the spread of coronavirus really well, as we have a strong tradition and excellent routines in hygiene.

Staying Positive

The economy in dental offices in Sweden is now temporarily and partly propped up by the government. Staff have been sent home with almost full salary as the appointment books are reduced by nearly half.

Nevertheless, the patients that still show up are given the best treatment in regard to virus protection, and theyreceive VIP treatment because dentists have so much time! Time is plentiful and a true gift.

Looking Toward the Future

In the middle of this crisis, we were able to re-orient the whole practice in a very constructive way. As an AACD dentist and team, we thought of this situation as a gift to be spent on improving our skills. We also have time for enhancing our team-building between the dentist, ceramist, oral surgeon, and other team members.

As Accredited members of the AACD, we (Cecilia as a dentist and Per as a ceramist) used the time to revise old cases and look for things to improve for the future. We also had the time to talk about upcoming cases, and discuss treatment plans on a very detailed level.

Cecilia has a goal of becoming an Accredited Fellow in the AACD one day. Therefore, she is using this time to up her skills on handling composite and reviewing old composite cases by polishing and photographing the result for further learning purposes

Time for Reflection and Team-Building

An AACD dentist, generally a true dental soul, has the chance to thrive in these uncertain times. We have spent hours perfecting our dental craftsmanship on all kinds of small details, especially those that will propel us towards the AACD Accreditation or Fellowship journeys. We have also used the time to try out new materials, learn through AACD webinars, read publications like the Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry, and go through the AACD protocol for excellence in dentistry. It has been an important time to reflect.

As clinic owners, we used this slower time to enhance the skills of ourselves and our staff. It is important post-COVID to build an even stronger team. Everything is easier together. Now, we feel closer and we encourage each other to learn and achieve nothing less than stellar results. This is initially somewhat demanding for the staff but as we all learn, we all grow.

We have used this time to upgrade our standards for the whole clinic, in order to be prepared for when the pandemic is over. Our goal is to have everyone on staff knowledgeable in AACD credentialing protocols. All staff will be trained in dental photography, have an understanding of all materials used in the clinic, know the protocol for polishing composites, and be able to prepare cases for the highest standards of AACD photography.

The Importance of the AACD in Hard Times

The main beneficiaries of this dental-forward mindset is our patients. By spinning the clinic dental philosophy around the AACD main pillars of excellence, we not only create satisfied patients, but we also get a happy working climate and contented colleagues. This kind of mindset easily spreads around! In Scandinavia, we attend a lot of webinars as well as hands-on education as a fantastic way of practicing new techniques and materials.

We want to thank the AACD for providing a nourishing cradle for excellence. Sharing knowledge. Helping one another. Practicing teamwork. This is what the AACD means for us.  We see a hopeful future after the pandemic and feel that the best way to spend this summer is in beautiful Stockholm.

 

 



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