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Dental Services Resume with Strict Precautionary Measures

Fanni Kaszás 2020.05.07.

On Monday, with the easing of restrictions, life slowly started again around the country. Strict curfew restrictions were lifted in the countryside, while Hungary’s general healthcare services also resumed in the whole country in compliance with strict hygiene rules. This also includes basic dental services as well as private dentistry, which the coronavirus also froze completely. They were put in a particularly difficult position, because Hungarian dental services heavily depend on foreign visitors, who provide much of their revenue.

During the period of restrictions, most would have likely postponed non-vital dental procedures on their own initiative as well, but on March 17th, the Ministry of Human Resources published a regulation which prohibited every non-vital dental care service. This means that dental practices virtually closed 1.5 months ago with the exception of emergency primary care.

This is a sector of almost 20,000 people, which means that the shutdown affected 6,000 dentists, 3,000 dental technicians, and 10,000 other dental workers, such as assistants, receptionists, and dental hygienists in Hungary. Although suspending dentistry services during the coronavirus epidemic was hardly questioned by anyone, since the virus spreads through saliva, sneezing, airborne carriers, and respiratory particles, especially exposing dentists to infection.

However, dental practices had to deal with the salaries of their staff, so that their teams would still be intact at the time services were resumed, and the supply system for domestic dental services would be provided.

But dental services were not just put in a particularly difficult situation because they still had to pay wages and rent, but they also lost revenue from “dental tourism,” which mainly caters to foreign patients. With the closure of borders, they would also have to manage the costs of foreign guests’ travel and accommodation, which has become obsolete.

Attila Balázs/MTI

Yet, once the epidemic is over, this segment – just like other parts of the tourism sector – will be one of the first to start over, as those who are only halfway through their treatments will definitely return.

Although services have resumed, restrictions and precautions remain in place. For example, dentists can only be visited after making an appointment by phone. Hygiene standards are being increased, while patients have to keep 1.5-meter distance between each other at all times. Also, every patient must check their temperature upon entering the doctor’s office. Dentists can consult with a maximum of four patients in one hour and offices must be disinfected after each patient. These requirements also apply to private healthcare institutions.

Attila Balázs/MTI

According to the new regulations, the SARS-CoV-2 virus PCR test (examination of a sample taken from the nasal and pharyngeal mucosa) must be performed before high-risk procedures and only patients who test negative can be treated. Within the dentistry sector, all treatments involving aerosol formation (filling, grinding, tartar removal) are considered high-risk. Dentists should also prioritize the care of the patients: emergency cases should come first, then ongoing treatments, and lastly, new treatments.

featured photo: Attila Balázs/MTI