HOW THE PANDEMIC SHIFTS DENTISTRY PRACTICES IN MALAYSIA

The global COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted numerous unpleasant situations in the life of humankind and continued to dominate the way things are done daily. Although more than 70% of Malaysians have been vaccinated and are currently transitioning into the endemic phase, the stigma that COVID-19 may never be over and the fear of other variants still encroach on people’s doubtful comfort. While many are aware that healthcare workers are bearing the grunt of overwhelming cases in every country, dental practitioners too are facing new challenges.

In Malaysia, a Crisis Preparedness and Response Committee (CPRC) was established by the Ministry of Health to monitor and coordinate oral healthcare services especially the needs and safety of oral patients. This is mainly because of the inevitable droplets’ transmission during a dental procedure which generates aerosol and increases the risk of infection in times of the pandemic. With such a setback, an interview was held with Dr Lo Sue Ann, a dental practitioner at renowned clinic in Kuala Lumpur to understand more about dentistry practices today.

Many think that dentistry is a niche field that solely focuses on one’s oral health and well-being but there are many specialisations in this field including orthodontics, periodontology, restorative dentistry, oral surgery and more. Interestingly, the current dentistry landscape has digitalised thanks to the whirlwind shift of most industries towards advanced technology. According to Dr Lo, many dental clinics now invest in digital scanners which allow three-dimensional X-ray imaging as opposed to conventional orthopantomograms. As a result, dentists can determine a patient’s actual teeth condition and enhance treatment outcomes.

Due to the threat of COVID-19 infections, extra precautions are taken at every dental clinic contrary to the pre-pandemic stage. Most dental clinics prefer patients with an appointment and will only accept walk-ins with an emergency. As per the SOP in the new normal, scanning of MySejahtera, temperature and travel history of a patient needs to be obliged. In the treatment room, all nurses and dentists are required to equip themselves with a PPE, ensure a well-ventilated room, use high-volume suctions to absorb aerosol and finally allow at least twenty minutes for thorough room disinfection before the next patient.

Despite the pandemic, Dr Lo still receives many patients as oral problems can occur anytime. She has also successfully referred a few patients with severe cases including suspected oral cancer and microdontia to renowned specialists and this proves that oral care is obligatory.

In the future, dentistry may involve a great deal of artificial intelligence (AI) due to the advancement of technology. According to Dr Lo, AI may not replace dentistry entirely but it will improve diagnoses and ensure accuracy for selected procedures. Hence, future dentists must learn beyond the textbooks such as by learning from dental experts around the world, catching up with the latest trends in dentistry and committing to pursue a specialisation to gain a competitive advantage in this field. Last but not least, future dentists should also go after valuable knowledge relentlessly, keep the enthusiasm and passion for becoming a polished and competent dental practitioner.

Dr Lo Sue Ann graduated from SEGi University Kota Damansara in 2016 under the Bachelor of Dental Surgery programme. She successfully completed the five-year course and was exposed to early patient contact and clinical training as well as top-notch facilities, laboratories and clinical teaching methods. To find out more about this programme, visit www.segi.edu.my.

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