Powered by disruption-contextual education & oral health practice

Recent times have been challenging to the dental profession as a whole and Prosthodontics in particular. We have witnessed a massive slowdown in practice. Both dental surgeons and patients are apprehensive of being infected with Covid-19 disease.

We do hear about dental practitioners down with Covid-19 and sometimes with fatal consequences. Disruption and challenges faced by the dental profession are much higher than any other health profession due to closely working in and around the highest aerosol generation areas.

Dental institutions had to commence online classes despite various studies and research showing institutions and faculty's unpreparedness. Moreover, our curriculum design does not fully support distance learning. Innovative teaching, learning, or blended learning practices are not prevalent, especially in our country. Though most institutions have quickly adapted to the virtual platforms, few have established centralized 'LEARNING MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE' (LMS). Another challenge is a clinical practice, which is the core of Dentistry as well as Prosthodontic and requires the development of psychomotor skills.

Finding a silver lining for dental education during the pandemic is critical. We need to focus on Preventive Therapeutics, better integration with medical practice, greater emphasis on innovative thinking, dealing with safe practices for overcoming clinical challenges for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Dental procedures should change to include expanded case history covering recent travel details, medical conditions of the patient and their family, pretreatment photographs and videos, shorter clinical guidelines, practice by appointment only, little or no waiting time, pre and postoperative workplace sanitization, and all of these at an affordable cost. Clinical acumen, smart communication skills, and strong ethical values will be very crucial. This challenging time will impact our profession in insignificant ways. So, how do we make the most of our learning during the pandemic? Can we leverage our strengths to take full advantage of this disruption?

It has reminded us; we are human first, vulnerable, and can support each other in times of need. Many dental schools & associations are sharing online webinars. There is exquisite talk on how to improve participation & learner's engagement during these online sessions. Group tasks and participation by attendees provide better peer experience and learning opportunities. Faculty development programs need to retool their approach to enhance student engagement with the curriculum.

We all have experienced participating in online meetings and conferences. It saves time, but the involvement of participants is questionable. Online classes combined with contact classes will be the trend, and they are here to stay. Hence, we need to innovate methods to maximize student engagement and learning opportunities.

During this pandemic, Prosthodontists have had an opportunity to carefully consider the risk versus benefits of immediate versus the deferred procedural treatment and re-visit minimally invasive treatment such as atraumatic restorative techniques, adhesive bridges, removable partial dentures, and use of conventional speed motors to avoid aerosols. Many are including strict infection control protocols aligned with recommendations from the center for infection control of diseases. Here we recall the early eighties during the HIV & AIDS pandemic when the dental profession was declared as high risk demanded strict clinical infection control procedures and practices.

Stress on Universal precaution, mandatory special training for dental surgeons for infection control equipment & procedures including biomedical waste management. Importance of history sheets social history with confidentiality, counseling, record-keeping, legal aspects is a few aspects that every dentist had to learn. The protective equipment was not devised with comfort and ease of performing clinical procedures. Once again, we need to consider practicality and feasibility with safety in our PPEs.

To summarize, it needs the hour to be compliant with technology, adapts our teaching sessions to engage learners effectively, and maximize learners' participation. Institutions need to have their learning management software. Focus continues to be procedures – skills backed with knowledge and the right attitude. As we get ready to start our clinics for full-fledged oral healthcare, we must understand patients will have varying medical risk factors that affect their susceptibility to aerosolized micro-organisms. Hence let us adapt to the new normal and practice safely.

Online patient history, shorter clinical procedures, minimally invasive procedures, and preventive care will help transition until the world sees a proven approved safe vaccine, herd immunity, and effective Covid treatment. We are standing on the threshold of overhauling our curriculum and educational program based on the new normal demand.

Dr. Suhasini Nagda

Advisor to Editor, JPDM

Founder President, IPS MNM