By Tom C. Pagonis, DDS, MS
When considering the difficulties encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic, substantial changes were made in dental education. Due to the unprecedented circumstances, dental schools had to immediately adjust and change their clinical and instructional techniques. As we reflect on these very challenging times, we gain insight and understandings about our dental community's resiliency, adaptation, and teamwork. Let’s examine the global dental schools' unique techniques and lessons learned.
- Adopting telemedicine and virtual learning
Dental schools quickly made the switch to virtual learning environments. Remote instruction was used for lectures, case studies, and even practical demonstrations to ensure that students could advance in their education. Additionally, tele-dentistry became a useful tool for consults and follow-up appointments with patients often prioritizing dental emergencies, enabling continuity of care in a secure and effective manner.
- Making research and public health initiatives a priority
The pandemic brought to light the crucial role dentists play in promoting public health. In order to comprehend the virus's effects on oral health, transmission concerns, and infection control procedures, dental schools stepped up their research efforts. Research efforts involving students and dental educators saw active participation, adding to the increasing body of information about COVID-19.
- Innovative Changes in Clinical and Teaching Methods
The pandemic caused a paradigm shift in dental education, which resulted in novel adjustments to clinical and instructional strategies. As essential elements of practical training, simulations and virtual patient cases helped students hone their critical-thinking and decision-making abilities. In order to maximize the limited clinical resources available while ensuring that dental students obtained practical experience, hybrid models that combine online and in-person encounters were implemented.
- Collaboration and Networking in the Virtual Realm:
The shift to virtual platforms created new opportunities for collaboration and networking among dental professionals. Webinars, virtual conferences, and online forums served as platforms for global discussions, knowledge sharing, and networking. Dental students and faculty engaged with international experts, broadening their perspectives.
- Fostering mental wellness and health
Recognizing the emotional toll of the pandemic, dental schools prioritized the mental health and well-being of their students and faculty. For people to confront their fears and deal with individual difficulties and anxieties, support systems, counseling services, and wellness initiatives were formed. Emphasizing self-care and resilience-building activities, fostered a supportive environment, ensuring the overall well-being of the entire dental community.
- Resilience and Adaptability: Future Lessons
The pandemic highlighted the versatility and resiliency of dental professionals. Dentists quickly changed with the times, embracing technology, and discovering innovative ways to continue offering high-quality care. Dental education and practice will continue to be shaped by the lessons learned during this difficult time, which emphasize the value of adaptability, agility, and readiness for potential future upheavals.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought significant challenges to dental education, prompting rapid adaptations in clinical and teaching methods. Dental schools embraced virtual learning, tele-dentistry, and intensified research efforts. The dental community demonstrated resilience, collaboration, and adaptability, paving the way for a more technologically advanced future. As we reflect back on this transformative period, we can draw valuable lessons that will shape the future of dental education and contribute to the advancement of the dental profession.
1. McGrath C, et al. Dental education and COVID-19: Innovations and challenges in transitioning to online teaching and learning. J Dent Educ. 2021;85(2):183-188.
2. Coulthard P, et al. The COVID-19 pandemic and dentistry: The clinical, legal and economic consequences - Part 2: Consequences of withholding dental care. Br Dent J. 2020;229(9):651-655.
3. Hollander JE, et al. Virtually perfect? Telemedicine for Covid-19. N Engl J Med. 2020;382(18):1679-1681.
4. Ahmed MA, et al. The Impact of COVID-19 on Dental Education: An International Perspective. J Dent Educ. 2021;85(4):494-501.
5. Sartori R, et al. COVID-19 outbreak and dental education in Italy: an insight of Italian dental students. Int Endod J. 2021;54(4):527-534.
6. da Costa AR, et al. Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on dental education: Strategies adopted by dental schools in Brazil. Braz Oral Res. 2021;35(suppl 1):e031.