Pain in the tooth with dental clinics shut

City Covid-19 Health Pandemic Top Story

With COVID-19’s second wave splashing against the country, many dental clinics have been shut, making patients suffer.

Mysuru: Bhanu Ramachandra, a doctor, had to undergo a lot of pain when she had to get her wisdom teeth extracted. She had to get them all removed but her dentist had shut the door on all future appointments. “It was urgent, as all my wisdom teeth came out, and there was no space at all and I had to get them extracted,” she said.

Bhanu had to make a lot of trips to her dentist’s before she finally got three of them removed. “Still one tooth is left, and I have to wait for a safer time,” she said. As a doctor herself, she knows that this situation requires patience and is not a blame game. “Dentists are directly exposed to aerosol while they operate, and it’s harder for them during this time.”

Dr Arun Kumar who runs Aishwarya Dental Clinic in the city sees dental patients only once a week. “In pre-COVID times, I had at least three or four root canal treatments every day. Now, I have brought them down to once a week. Unless it’s an absolute emergency, I don’t operate,” he said. A root canal is done to treat an infected tooth instead of extracting it.

Lakshmi Murthy had to get a root canal treatment done to her teeth, and it ideally takes a month for her to get the entire treatment done. “This time, the treatment stretched for over three months. Initially, it was hard to get an appointment, but when I did, the doctor decided to see only a couple of patients a week,” she said.

The Indian Dental Association, an autonomous body, proposed a set of guidelines to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Dental Council of India also came out with a comprehensive set of guidelines to be implemented during dental procedures but still many dental clinics do not operate at a 100 percent capacity.

Dr Sanjay Pai, who runs Rakshith Dental Clinic in T Narasipura, a town in Mysuru district, has implemented  the ICMR prescribed COVID guidelines. “I always wear a PPE kit, two masks and a face shield when I have to check my patients, but I do not know if anybody else is doing that,” he said. As a member of the Indian Dental Association, Mysuru branch, he has reduced all surgical dental procedures to a bare minimum. “I don’t do scaling, extraction, cavity cutting and root canal treatments anymore, I try to see if it’s possible to treat issues through medicines,” he said.

Aditi Shankar, a 16-year-old has been waiting to get her braces removed for over a month. “It’s an uncomfortable situation to be in; wearing braces socially is bad enough, and now with COVID-19 the process is getting delayed. It’s adding to my insecurity.”

“Eight out of 10 Indians suffer from some or the other dental disease. This clearly reflects that Dental Health has always been deprioritized, even before the pandemic,” said Lt Gen. Dr Vimal Arora, Chief Clinical Officer, Clove Dental in an interview. However, the pandemic has worsened oral health conditions. What could have been handled with simple cavity filling, now might lead to loss of the tooth.” 

The Draft National Oral Health Policy by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare states that tooth decay (dental caries or cavities) is one of the major dental disorders in India.