Sapphire Dental Care would like to thank each and every patient we have contacted this week. Thank you for your understanding and compliance with rescheduling appointments. Thank you for helping make a very tough and emotional job so much easier. This week has shown us how truly blessed we are with having such amazing patients. We cannot thank you enough and we look forward to seeing you at your next appointment.
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This is long, but a great article by a colleague and friend of mine from Sydney. Dr Brett Taylor
Universal Precautions: What you can learn from your Dentist
For the last 30 years, every dentist in every western country has assumed every patient has AIDS and Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. For the last 20 years we've also assumed you've got Mad Cow Disease as well. What the? Yeah, that's right, and it probably shouldn't surprise you that at the moment we assume you have COVID 19 as well.
I know what you're thinking: "It's unlikely I have any of those things". We know, and we don't care. You see, 30 years ago (when AIDS showed up) we figured it was too hard to decide who had what, so we began assuming (as a profession) everyone had everything and started taking precautions accordingly. Universal precautions.
Did we, as a profession, want to start taking Universal precautions? Hell no. We bitched and moaned about it amongst ourselves. Thirty-five years ago, when I started practising, gloves were reserved for special occasions. We couldn't possibly wear gloves all the time. "We're a profession that relies on tactile responsiveness. We can't give that up". But we did, and pretty quickly too once we were told it was a rule (that we had to follow). We sucked it up because we had to. Does that sound like a lesson for today?
Sucking it up (excuse the dentist pun) is not my central message here; it's universal precautions. Dentists treat everyone the same way: as if they have a disease we don't want to catch, or spread to other people. We follow a set of rules, set at the highest standard that guarantees (if you follow them) we achieve our goal. And it works. No patient has gotten HIV (AIDS) from a dentist since the first (and only) time it happened 30 years ago. That's when we adopted universal precautions. So what does everyone else need to learn from us?
The first thing you need to do is trust that bugs really do exist and that sometimes they're dangerous. If I could change one thing at the moment, it would be to make all surfaces randomly scalding hot. Why? Because people would then start to seriously pay attention to what they touch. Everyone would get burnt a few times and then suddenly the message would sink in. The fact people can't see bugs means it's easy to be blasé about them. That's why we're in the predicament we're in at the moment. So lesson 1: think before you touch anything. The second thing I would change at the moment (if I could) is to cover everything you can easily touch in public in bright red glowing ink. Why? Because people can't see the bugs they're spreading around, but they'd be able to see the red ink. And for good measure, I'd make anything covered in red ink scalding hot until it got cleaned (to reinforce my point). So you're probably thinking: "If all public places are covered in red ink I'd be washing my hands all day long". And that's less number 2: if you do touch something in public, assume your hands are covered in ink and wash them.
Does all of this sound a little hard? That's what we thought (in the beginning), but we adapted because we had to, and you're going to need to adapt too. So what are universal precautions for the general public in the COVID-19 world? Just the things you've been told already but you HAVE TO DO THEM, or they don't work, and the disease spreads. Stay 1.5 metres away from people. Seriously, do it. Yes, I know you're special, but the bugs don't know that. Start thinking "every contact leaves a trace". I love that line, ponder it for a while. Those contacts are what spread bugs around. Assume everything in public has been touched by someone else and has red ink on it. Whatever you touch after that (like your phone) will have red ink on it, and if that red ink gets on your lips nose or eyes, then you could get infected with COVID-19. So, wash your hands, all the time, like you've been told.
Let me tell you precisely what I do, and what I'm scared of, so you can think like a dentist (or at least like this dentist). I assume my home is clean. It's not always "clean" clean, but it's COVID 19 clean. The moment I walk into my house, I'm bringing the ink-covered outside world into my clean personal space. The first thing I do is put everything I've brought in from outside in a designated "dirty" area, and I go and wash my hands (not touching anything else on the way) with soap and water for 20 seconds. I then assess what in the dirty area is high risk and wipe it down with soap and water or some sort of kitchen spray cleaner. The highest risk item for most people will be their smartphone. Once I've decided everything is "clean", I put it all where it belongs and clean the designated dirty area (the kitchen table in my case) with the kitchen cleaner. I then forget about catching COVID-19 for the rest of the day. When I get to work it's a similar approach except I've got fancier dentist cleaners I can use (to protect you people).
What am I scared of; screwing up. When I'm in public, I avoid touching "public" things, but that's not always possible. When I do touch a "public" thing that lots of other people may have touched (say a petrol pump or a lift button) I make a mental note that my hands are now covered in ink, and that I shouldn't touch my nose, eyes or mouth until I've had a chance to wash the imaginary ink (real bugs) off of them. I'm not perfect, though. I can lose focus. Maybe I touch my face without realising it. Who knows, that's what losing focus is all about. I'm also scared of my kids. Getting kids to wash their hands properly is a challenge at the best of times. Do they do it at home when I'm not there? I don't know. Have they made my clean house dirty? I don't know.
And that's my last lesson. We don't know. We don't know who or what is infected, so we have to assume it's everyone and everything (and take precautions accordingly). Are you going to get it right every time? No. Are you going to reduce your risk of getting it and spreading it by trying a little harder? Hell yeah.
Let me bore you with one last metaphor. I've been driving a car for 40 years. I've put a seat belt on at least twice a day, every day, for 40 years, and I've never needed it. It's never saved my life, but seatbelts save hundreds (thousands?) of lives every day all over the world. You don't know ( and you can't know) if today is the day a seatbelt will save your life. You put it on (as a precaution) because you don't know. And that, in a nutshell, is why we all have to adopt universal precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19. You don't know where it is, you can't know where it is, so you have to assume it's everywhere (and act accordingly).
"I little bit of prevention goes a long way". I've spent thirty-five years saying that to save teeth; now I'm saying it to save lives. Please pay attention.
Dr Brett Taylor BDS FICD FPFA FADI
(Brett Taylor is a dentist who practises in Sydney Australia. He normally has a very good sense of humour, but nothing at the moment seems very funny) ... See MoreSee Less