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Virtual dentistry will be the way ahead

A couple of months ago I wrote a piece in The Herald regarding the future of dentistry and what protocols would be put in place in order for patients to return to practices across the country.  Take a look…

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has brought disruption to everyday life. As restrictions begin easing across the country and we move toward ‘Phase 2’, it’s clear that what we understood as ‘normal’ is no more.

Working in close proximity to patients, according to national statistics, dental care professionals are among those at highest risk of exposure during the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the advice from the Chief Dental Officer, dental practices across the UK were shut down at the end of March and were ordered to stop all non-urgent treatment and work on a remote prescription and advice basis, with referral to NHS urgent care hubs. This has presented challenges for patients in terms of the availability of urgent dental treatment, not to mention managing pain in non-urgent cases.

For the Dental profession there is not only the concern for patient health but also worry over the survival of dental surgeries. A fear resulting from reduced income whilst overheads and operational costs are set to increase due to stringent protocols for virus control. The dentistry profession already adheres to the most stringent infection control protocols, yet even with such high standards, COVID-19 has added to and elevated the requirements. One of the world’s most coveted commodities at the moment is PPE. It has been widely agreed that viruses like COVID-19 require a higher grade of PPE particularly during aerosol generating procedures used in dentistry. Increased demand has resulted in inflated prices and this combined with the installation of air ventilation and purification systems has seen surgery operational costs increase drastically.

Online video consultations have become the ‘new normal’ and mark a big change for patients. Familiar to me in my practice, video calls are a useful tool for patient communication, to triage potential problems and monitor treatment. Complementing this will be patients completing online medical forms. I believe this new “virtual dentistry” to be a positive outcome, as it helps to reduce clinical time and remove an element of non-essential contact which in turn reduces risk. For patients, this could mean reduced travel to their dental practice for issues easily resolved over the phone and decreased waiting times for appointments. However, the need for dental services will not disappear and the current inability to access care is likely to create an urgent demand. Pre–pandemic access to NHS dentistry was difficult enough: According to the British Dental Association in 2019 over 4 million people across the UK were said to have an unmet need for dental care. The subsequent need for increased treatment time will mean fewer patients treated per day, only adding to the backlog.  As a consequence, dental practices will for a period see a continued reduction in revenue which when combined with significantly increased running costs will mean that many practices will struggle financially. When surgery doors open again, only patients who are asymptomatic and have had no contact with an infected person will be allowed to attend appointments initially. In some cases, temperature tests may be required. Social distancing rules will limit patients and staff in waiting rooms. Risk assessments and staff self-monitoring will take place to ensure a controlled and infection-free workplace – this may also be combined with regular antibody testing as a further preventative measure.

I have no doubt that this will be a difficult time for dentistry, however additional infection control measures mean a safer environment for patients and dental care professionals. I believe with the introduction of virtual consultations and digitisation, the dental profession will emerge stronger and renewed.

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Lockdown

Lockdown life has separated all of us from so many things we normally take for granted: family, friends, colleagues, even just a reliable supply of flour and chopped tomatoes (in Glasgow at least). 

However, if you’re accustom to maintaining your appearance with aesthetic treatments, self-isolation is shedding light on a whole new set of worries.

With the UK’s cosmetic clinics shut down and no access to Botox, fillers, and high-skin treatments, there are plenty of men and women panicking about what they’re going to look like in three months’ time when their treatments have worn off: an aesthetic endemic that I’m calling “Lockdown Face.”

This can be further compounded with the pressure to ‘glow up’ during lockdown – from at home workouts and fad diets, to influencers with flawless skin all over Instagram,  it’s hard when you’re used to a regular appointment to help you feel good about yourself.

I’ve been inundated with enquiries from patients, new and existing, who are worried about their appearance and wondering when they can come in for treatment. I’m trying to keep things light-hearted, but there is a real underlying issue as some people really do rely on these treatments and going without can leave them feeling insecure and perhaps unattractive to partners and those around them.

The work I do is very subtle and natural – to look at my patients you wouldn’t know that they’ve had anything done. But by the time lockdown has been lifted, Botox will have almost certainly worn off for most and those who attend regular skin and beautification treatments may also feel like their appearance is not as fresh and energised as usual. 

Some people have reported a concern about their partner “seeing their real face,” while others are worried their migraines and headache will return as their Botox wears off (yes, Botox treatments do have the added benefit of migraine relief to some patients). 

Experts in the industry have highlighted a concern around the mental health and wellbeing of the public and I believe it is the responsibility of all practitioners to be available to advise patients correctly, reassure them, and look out for anyone who might be struggling. 

Although I appreciate that while treatments wearing off can create huge anxiety for patients, it’s important to keep things in perspective with a worldwide pandemic killing hundreds of thousands. Therefore, I advise that people remain patient and do not break the law and seek out treatments from clinics that may be going against government guidelines during the lockdown.

The truth is, having a break from treatments and focusing on the important things in life: family, health, and internal happiness, is probably a good remedy for us all right now.  

There are things you can do at home to help get your skin in the best possible condition ahead of your next appointment.

  1. Drink plenty of water: Ideally 2-3 litres per day. 
  2. Nurture your body:  Having a healthy diet will do wonders for your skin.
  3. Lifestyle Choices: Smoking and excessive drinking are just some of the things to avoid. 
  4. SPF: Make sure you always wear sunscreen. 
  5. Exfoliate, cleanse, moisturise and protect:  Having a good skincare routine will help keep your keen hydrated and protected.

So until the clinics re-open in June or July (we hope)  my advice is to focus on your health by eating healthy, drinking lots of water, getting lots of rest, good sleep – so once this lockdown is lifted you have the best skin and best attitude when you attend your next appointment.

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Meet Andrew Culbard

The person behind the dentist...

Born in the wonderful city of Glasgow I grew up in a small village on the outskirts of the city. It was only in my university years and beyond that I discovered the real beauty of the city, the architecture, the people and the diverse cultures and traditions that make it so special. It is a city loved by its people and now living in the city I am proud to call it my home."

I can say the same too of the small coastal town of North Berwick on the east coast where I spent my early teens and high school years enjoying the picturesque beaches and practicing golf on the world famous courses.

Golfing was almost a daily enjoyment, these days it is more a rare pleasure with the constraints of working life but I continue to play as often as opportunity allows. 

Striking the correct work life balance is key to one’s health and professional performance and I enjoy time socialising with friends, playing sports and gym workouts. My biggest love is travelling and I am fortunate to having had the opportunity to travel to many wonderful countries for the purpose of both business and pleasure.

 

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I studied Dentistry at The University of Glasgow and 2 years after graduation I was awarded membership to the Royal College of Surgeons of England. 

I went on to pursue post graduate training in a number of specialties to ensure a diverse accolade of knowledge and skills. Alongside cosmetic dentistry, I discovered the world of facial aesthetics and instantly knew I had found another niche that stirred my passion and complemented Dentistry.  Four years on I continue to devote my efforts to continuous improvement in both areas.

The UK was my home for 27 year, it gave me a lot to be grateful for and a lot to leave behind. However anyone who knows me will agree that I have always had an appetite to learn and attain new skills and a hunger for a new challenge.

Seeking and providing the best innovative treatments for my patients is always my priority and it was this coupled with my desire to travel that led me to Dr. Roze Clinic Dubai in November 2017. It is amazing clinic with a team of talented and forward thinking professionals and I was both excited and honoured to be joining the team. "

 

 

 

My beautiful girlfriend Victoria, also a Dentist in training, travels almost everywhere with me. Here we are at the Private Dentistry Awards 2018 in Mayfair, London. 

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It was a pleasure to be awarded the title of "Best Young Denitst 2018" at the prestigous Private Dentistry Awards UK. Many great young dentists have inspired and worked hard to earn this title, and I'm delighted to be another ambassador to our profession."