Objective: The aim of this study was to identify needs of Pakistani dentists, in order to establish recommendations for essential dental care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Methodology: Initial needs assessment was performed using social media. A field survey of clinics in 16 localities of Lahore, as well as an online survey of dental practitioners in Pakistan was conducted.
Results: There were 60 respondents from 15 cities in Pakistan; 46 general dental practitioners including 3 unqualified practitioners, and 14 specialists. Adequate PPE was available with 60-70% of practitioners. Ventilation was inadequate in most establishments, and in 30%, aerosols generated in the dental surgery had the potential to spread to the entire clinic. Majority (59%) of patients presenting to practices were walk-in. In the 25 clinics inspected, PPE was not being used adequately, or being saved for use on COVID-19 patients. One third of the practices had rubber-dam, high volume suction, and adequate waste disposal. Patient records were not maintained by 28%.
Conclusion: Needs identified were: infection control training for dental health care workers (DHCWs), patient awareness and compliance, protocols for walk-in patient management, use of rubber-dam and high volume suction, financial aid and loans, availability and correct use of PPE and disinfection supplies, and economically feasible means of aerosol control and improvement in clinic ventilation. The role of governing and regulatory authorities in addressing these needs has been suggested. Guidelines based on the needs identified are presented in part 2 of this study.
Key words: COVID-19, dentistry, infection control, Pakistan, training