The Impact of COVID-19 on Undergraduate Restorative Dentistry Waiting List
Objectives: In Cork University Dental School and Hospital (CUDSH), Undergraduate Restorative Dentistry Clinics are carried out on open plan polyclinics. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the viability of clinical dental treatment in open plan settings. A review of the patient waiting list for treatment on the Undergraduate Restorative Dentistry Clinic was carried out to assess patient suitability for treatment on a polyclinic.
Methods: Patient charts from the Undergraduate Restorative Dentistry waiting list in CUDSH were reviewed by clinical teaching staff in Restorative Dentistry. The Health Protection Surveillance Centre guidelines for dental treatment were used to triage patients according to risk of developing severe disease from SARS-CoV-2. Risk factors included: age, immune status, underlying cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, chronic lung disease, chronic kidney disease, smoking and excessive BMI.
Results: 299 charts were reviewed. 2 were excluded due to unclear medical history forms. 27.3% (81) of patients were unsuitable for treatment on a polyclinic: 9.1% (27) due to age. 7.4% (22) due to underlying medical conditions. 10.8% (32) due to multiple risk factors.
Conclusions: The pandemic has presented huge challenges for dental students and academic staff. 27.3% of the patients attending the Undergraduate Clinics in CUDSH were unsuitable for treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has substantial impacts on the ability of dental students to develop clinical skills. There is also considerable impact on the dental health of affected patients as their treatment is deferred until it is safe to return. Novel approaches to clinical teaching are required and being developed with greater emphasis on training with phantom heads and online teaching modalities. Future designs of undergraduate clinics may need to consider a mix of open plan and closed surgeries to mitigate the risk of airborne and droplet viral transmission.