Because dental professionals are uniquely vulnerable when it comes to the transmission of upper respiratory diseases, we are unsure about just how much risk to take on to help our patients. For many dental offices in Bavaria Germany, the last couple of weeks have been filled with staff meetings and discussions about what to do and when to call it quits. For instance, our office and others faced, and are still facing, a critical shortage of masks and gloves. Then, as of Wednesday, 18 March, the Bavarian government announced the closure of all non-essential businesses. You can read more about that here.
Dental offices were not included in the mandate. So, we were left scratching our heads about how to proceed without a clear mandate. Two days ago, a German hygienist started a petition to call for the closure of dental offices and their hygiene departments, except for “on-call” arrangements. If the petition and link are still active, you can find it (in German) here. We all clearly recognize our vulnerability.
While many offices are still fully functioning, my doctor decided to close the hygiene department on Monday, 16 March, and limit his treatments to selective emergencies. Monday was my last day of work.
On that day, neither he nor the other dentist used any tools or instruments that produced aerosols. That meant no fillings or preps and people had to be turned away or cancelled. Everyone was understanding. I was limited to hand-scaling. Thankfully, all of my patients were recall patients.
Most European offices do not have a central A/C system, so all our windows were opened, all patients pre-rinsed, and we disinfected hands and everything else like crazy. As soon as they walked in, our patients were drilled on their current state of health, and the waiting room was aired out. We never got around to checking temps. At one point, a patient who had recently arrived from Italy was in the waiting room and my patient—who had been waiting there before he arrived—was clearly unnerved by having to share a space with him.
Most people don’t drive to their appointments, so in-car waiting rooms are not an option here. I don’t know how my patient knew that he was Italian and had recently arrived in Germany, but she gave me an earful as soon as she entered my operatory. This fear of the unknown is uncomfortable for everyone.
Our office is, for all intents and purposes, closed to patients. The German government is stepping in to subsidize our income at almost 70%, so at least we won’t starve. However, we all know that it’s time to ‘batten down the hatches’ because this storm is just getting started. Let’s hope that Germany is ahead of the curve. At least for us in Bavaria, life as we know it will stop as of today, until further notice…