How Dentistry Survived the Early Months of the COVID-19 Pandemic? The Palestinian Experience

Kateeb, Elham
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Objectives: Dentists provide care in a proximity with patients and most of dental procedures generate aerosols and droplets. Under these conditions, dentistry had unique challenges to operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study assessed how Palestinian dentists survived the early months of the COVID-19. Methods: A cross-sectional study targeted dentists in the West Bank area of Palestine using an on line survey during the first two weeks of May, 2020. Questions mainly asked about dentists’ perception of the risks of COVID-19, readiness to reopen their clinics for routine care, and the level of confidence in dealing with suspected COVID-19 patients. Results: 448 dentists completed the survey. Almost 60% believed that they were not ready to re open their practices. Thirteen percent had “no confidence” in dealing with COVID-19 patients, while 64% had “little to moderate” confidence. Confidence was correlated negatively with increased fear of getting infected (ρ=-0.317, p<0.0001) and positively with years of practice (ρ=1.7, p< 0.0001). Dentists who received updated training on infection control or on COVID-19 reported higher levels of confidence (X2 =53.8,p<0.0001, X2=26.8, p<0.0001 respectively). Although 88% preferred not to treat COVID-19 patients, 40% were willing to provide care to them. Almost 75% reported that they were already facing financial hardships and couldn’t survive financially until the end of the current month. Conclusions: Data from this study highlights the fragility of private dental practice in emergency situations. Ethical, health and financial challenges that emerged during COVID-19 require dentists to adapt and be better prepared to face future crises.