Children’s TV legend Mr. Rogers once famously advised that in times of crisis, people seeking solace should “look for the helpers.” But what about being a helper? As a dental professional, you’re uniquely positioned to go above and beyond and serve people affected by COVID-19. After all, you’ve dedicated your career to helping patients. If you’re wondering what you can do to help your community combat the coronavirus pandemic, here are some ideas and examples to inspire you.
Limit your services
Start by closing your dental office for all but emergency dental care, as the American Dental Association has advised, until restrictions in your local area are lifted. This helps prevent the spread of the coronavirus and also makes protective personal equipment (PPE) that might otherwise be used in dental offices more available for healthcare workers on the front lines.
Provide emergency dental care
Some dentists have closed their offices altogether, and that’s a choice only you can make. But by providing emergency dental care, you can keep patients from having to go to the local emergency room. Visiting a hospital for urgent dental care may not only expose patients to coronavirus, but also adds to the burden on already strained healthcare systems.
Volunteer as a healthcare worker
Dentists are among the many healthcare professionals answering state and local governments’ call for volunteers. California, for example, is asking everyone from EMTs and nursing students to dentists to volunteer as medical assistants.
“Dentists, with their knowledge of anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and sterile surgical techniques, are invaluable to the health care worker capacity necessary to meet this need,” says the California Dental Association website.
The goal of such programs is to get licensed medical professionals in place so they can be quickly deployed to help with critical care needs, such as taking vital signs, administering COVID-19 testing, triaging patients, administering oxygen and writing prescriptions. Depending on their qualifications, dental professionals may even be called on to intubate patients or provide anesthesia.
Donate personal protective equipment
Chances are your dental office has a stock of PPE such as N95 and surgical masks, face shields, gloves and hand sanitizer. With fewer patients to treat until social distancing restrictions ease, you won’t use most of this supply. Why not donate what you don’t need to local healthcare facilities such as hospitals or nursing homes? You can even organize a group effort among local dentists or dental organizations, as one Iowa dentist is doing. “"It feels good to actually be able to help do something in this time," Dr. Zach Kouri told a Des Moines news station. To find out where PPE supplies are most needed, contact local hospitals directly or search for local healthcare facilities seeking PPE at GetUsPPE.org.
Make personal protective equipment
Do you have the equipment, materials and know-how to make improvised PPE for healthcare workers? For example, doctors at the LSU School of Dentistry are using a 3D printer to craft PPE. “It’s an incredible feeling to come together and actually make a difference in the fight against COVID-19,” Dr. Robert Laughlin told Station WGNO in New Orleans.
In Edmond, Oklahoma, RedBud Dental is using filtration materials, a 3D printer and dental impression material to put together makeshift respirators for health care workers. “I feel very blessed that [I] and my team members can find a way to use the resources we have now to help those who are out on the front lines,” Dr. James Peck at RedBud Dental told Oklahoma News 4.
Share your story
If you’re volunteering, making PPE or otherwise helping battle the spread of COVID-19, be sure to share what you’re doing with your patients and the community in your email newsletters, on your website and on social media. (Lighthouse 360 can make that easy to do.) Who knows? You just might inspire someone else to lend a hand.