The Articulate Dentist - A Blog by the Metro Denver Dental Society

Feng Shui, What Happened?

By: Allen Vean, DDS

According to the, Feng Shui is a practice of looking at our environments and how to live in harmony with the principles of the natural world. This comes from an ancient poem and reflects upon how human life can be
ideal if we connect and live in flow with the environment around us. Our world has been turned in every direction, except normal. Each day passes without us knowing what tomorrow may bring. Many more questions are unanswered than answered. Uncertainty, at the present moment, appears to be the new Feng Shui and it has beleaguered our profession.

At this writing, our profession is trying to find our new Feng Shui. As a population we are beginning to return to a different normal, whatever that may be, with technology to deal with a pathogen that still is not wholly understood other than its virulence and contagiousness. As usual, common sense and science should be our guide. The number of cases and deaths was thought to be under control but now seems to be on the rise in over half of the United States.

As we open our practices, a plethora of issues are upon us, both professional and personal. The CDC issues guidelines and within a short time period, they are changed as we have seen with the waiting period and sanitizing between patients depending upon the procedure type. If the number of virus cases continues to rise, are we facing another shutdown? Are we going to have to institute more extreme measures? All we can do now is what we do best and that is treat our patients as best we can under conditions we have never experienced. Our profession is as tough as they come. You can be sure we will survive and be better for it. Our track record speaks for itself.

The stresses of working every day in our profession under normal circumstances present challenges that our Feng Shui has learned to manage. Our new circumstances present challenges in patient care that no one has ever encountered. We are social organisms. We thrive on human contact and relationships. Some of our greatest pleasures are sitting chairside and chatting with our patients and asking how they are doing. How is that family member who was ill the last time you were in the office feeling? Was your son/daughter accepted to college? How is that new grandchild? This is such an integral part of us. Now we are asked to enter a treatment operator looking like we are going to perform major surgery and limit our patient conversation and contact to the task at hand. All this after we have asked the patient to text/call when they arrive, taken their temperature and taken a short history regarding our new arch enemy.

One may ask, “Is all this necessary?” I believe that the answer is yes until the science, facts, and data tell us differently.  Initially, I thought that an increased number of practitioners would leave dentistry during this time due to so many issues of which you all are aware. However, my sources as well as data from the Health Policy Institute (HPI) tell me that this has not been the case. During this time, practices are transitioning as usual. How many have had HR complications, PPP loan issues, PPE shortages, and reductions in office production that are no fault of their own? Some may look at these challenges and obvious health risks and not be able to overcome them. In the worst-case scenario, our profession has seen colleagues, staff members, family, and friends fatally contract the disease and colleagues who have taken their own lives.

What has been the short-term effects of the outbreak? As I stated above, a total disruption of our professional and personal lives. A scenario that I have read about on more than one occasion describes a staff member making the decision to attend a gathering with no protocols in place. They then find out that at least one or more people tested positive for the virus. How would you handle this? As we approach the opening of schools, it appears that not all school systems are unified in their approach. What policies can be instituted in your office to deal with this? These are just two of so many different situations that we will confront. I have always been of the opinion that your practice is only as good as the weakest link and your leadership will certainly be tested.

From a long-term perspective, our profession is strong, unified and will do whatever it may take to make sure we come back better than before. However, I am concerned about the long-term mental health issues that will need to be addressed. I know that in my specialty (pediatrics), three colleagues have taken their own lives during this pandemic. In the June 30, 2020 issue of An International Journal of Medicine, Leo Sher tells us that the pandemic has had profound psychological and social effects that will persist for months and years to come. The list of conditions is much too long to repeat here. Needless to say, it is so important to reduce stress and anxiety. You are not alone. Please reach out if you or anyone that you feel needs help. MDDS and CDA are here for you.

The tragedy of 9/11 forever changed our lives. I do not know what our Feng Shui will be on the other side of this pandemic, but it cannot come soon enough.

As always, your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thank you all for all you do.

Dr. Allen Vean is a retired pediatric dentist and co-editor of the MDDS Articulator magazine. Dr. Vean is a long-time member of organized dentistry and owned a private practice for over 30 years in Denver, CO. In addition to volunteering with MDDS, he donates his time to a number of community organizations including Special Olympics Colorado.