‘We ran one of busiest dental practices in region off my mobile phone’ - Limerick dentist on lockdown

Aine Fitzgerald

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Aine Fitzgerald

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aine.fitzgerald@limerickleader.ie

‘We ran one of busiest dental practices in region off my mobile phone’ - Limerick dentist on lockdown

Dr Robert Bowe, founder of Bowe Dental, says 'this profession is not about teeth but rather people'

ONE of Limerick’s leading dentists has said that all additional Covid-19 measures are manageable and will ultimately ensure continued best practices in patient care in a controlled and safe environment.

Speaking after returning to full-time operations, Dr Robert Bowe, founder of Bowe Dental, which has practices at Q Retail Park, Roxboro, Limerick and Main Street, Foynes – said, however, that while the end result for patients will be of the same high quality, the biggest negative from his perspective will be the impediment that Covid-19 measures will present to dentist-patient relationship.

“In reality, the end product will be the same – quality care in a controlled environment but the new measures will take some getting used to.  As I learned years ago, after coming out of dentistry school, this profession is not about teeth but rather people. Listening is so important; communication is so important but that type of interaction now has to change.

“Usually I would take off the mask to talk to patients but now I will be keeping it on.  I even had an older patient the other day who was so delighted after getting her implant and the difference it made to her that she instinctively reached out to thank me but that’s out of the question now,” he said.

In the week since resuming, the number of enquiries and bookings for non-emergency procedures such as implants, have been a lot more than expected.  “We were running one of the busiest dental practices in the region off my mobile phone for six weeks but were able to arrange consultations across FaceTime, email and on mobile. We ran an emergency clinic every morning and, because we offer the full range of services here, we were able to sort everybody out. But it was a challenge, not least for our patients.  We are now back since Monday, May 18 and it has been extremely busy, a lot more than I expected.”

The time off, he said, was used wisely to look at what is already a patient-centric and safe environment to see where they could add additional controls and precautions.

“All our dentists and nurses are already trained to follow stringent infection control procedures such as sterilisation, decontamination, barrier protection, moisture control and high-volume suction evacuation but we have upgraded our checks and balances now so we are an appointment-only clinic and we also do telephone triaging,” he said.

There will, he continued, inevitably be changes and, for patients, it will be getting accustomed to aspects like more PPE than they would normally have seen and interventions like waiting in their cars, less conversation with reception and generally no accompanying persons.  But all of these are in the patient’s best interests.

Luckily also, he added, they have not had any issues with securing PPEs, even in the lockdown.  “We were fortunate on the PPE side that we did not have to wait for the PPE procurement system and, instead, sourced and bought what we needed early.  This enabled us to provide the emergency service immediately and safely. Also, we have had a contingency plan in place since Brexit in relation to dental supplies so for once Brexit, ironically, was a good thing. We’ve enough equipment for a year.”

Looking back on the six-week period of lockdown, he said that the emergency service was essential.  “Because we had a lockdown didn’t mean we didn’t have emergencies.  People were still getting pain and infections and we had to deal with that. We were treating things like abscesses, broken teeth, wisdom tooth problems. Some people were ringing for advice. We also saw a lot of kids whose parents were worried. I know how stressed people were but our patients were brilliant. They just seemed grateful that they could be seen and sorted immediately.”