An Overview of Current Dental Scenario in India

Practicing dentistry for more than 13 years, Dr Riddhi has completed MDS in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics from RGUHS, Karnataka. She is trained from various institutes across the globe for Dental Implants including Advanced Dental Implants course from American Association of Implant dentistry, Smile USA, Masters in cortical Implants from Italy and Zygomatic Implants course.

In the last decade, we have witnessed a digital revolution with every sector choosing the digital route over the traditional method. This digital wave took the dentistry industry by storm, compelling us to advance for the better. The industry has seen a sizable evolution witnessing a structural change with technology taking the fore. Gone are the days, when patients would have to depend on their imagination for their current state and post dental treatment look such as braces, smile makeovers, dental implants, clear aligners etc. Now thanks to the 3D scanners and computer designing technique a graphical representation of their treated teeth helps them make an informed decision.

Due to superior dental care offered by highly experienced and skilled dental surgeons at an effective price, dental tourism in India has garnered popularity. More than 1 lakh patients from various parts of the world travel to India for economical yet effective dental procedures that are at par with the international standards. One of the most common myths amongst Indians is that developed countries offer superior quality dental treatments in comparison to India. In actuality, most of these countries offer dentists that are trained in India given the high-ranking medical education system in our country. Not only this, but also, we offer the same world standards treatments at one third of the cost as compared to the developed nations.

India being the second most populous countries in the world, has more than 70% of its citizens residing in rural areas. As far as dentists and their availability is concerned, catering to this huge population in rural parts, the demand and supply ratio seems to be insufficient as more professionals are focused towards the urban region delivering world-class technology-equipped solutions.

Speaking of the current scenario, the covid19 outbreak has disrupted the dental profession and workforce, compelling us to move towards real-time interactive video / mobile consultations promoting contactless visits. The lockdown scenario not only resulted in more and more people adopting unhealthy food eating habits but also popping-in pain killers for dental illnesses as an alternative way of visiting dentists leading to general health problems.

With the pandemic showing no signs of settling down, it has stamped standardized protocols and permanent changes which are mandatory to be followed:

Hygiene, Sanitization and Sterilization: To follow the covid19 protocol, the number of patients entering the clinic is restricted in order to maintain social distance and sanitization. The norms involve disinfection of any surgical equipment, disinfecting of the rooms before and after treating the patient, ensuring availability of hand sanitizers, masks, tissues for anyone entering the clinic. Instruments used inside the patient’s mouth should either be disposable or thoroughly sterilized after the use.

Mandatory use of PPE kits: The pre-pandemic world meant just wearing lab coats and masks before attending a patient which has now shifted to wearing personal protective kits (PPE) covering the whole body with gloves, gowns, goggles, head caps and face masks as it reduces the exposure to the infectious particles.

Installation of HEPA filters in the dental clinics: The virus can survive in the air for hours. To tackle this risk, the HEPA filters have come to the rescue. They are used as an indoor portable air cleaning system; acting as an agent that captures smallest biological elements, dust, bacteria, and any airborne particles present.

Training of the healthcare staff: Educating and training the clinic staff right from hand sanitization, maintaining social distance, dealing with patients, proper use of masks and PPE kits is imperative. We as a health organization should ensure that the staff is rotating the shifts frequently with proper nutrition and sleep. In such unprecedented times it is important to be empathetic and acknowledging.

If I had to describe the current dental scenario in a nutshell, I would say that the pandemic has bought negative impact on health but a positive alteration in the dental practice. With an optimistic perspective, ‘change creates opportunities. The norms implemented by ICMR or WHO have resulted in an improved overall dental standard. Strongly fueling the digital space, it has also prompted more and more people to adopt the digital way.