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DENTAL INDUSTRY INSIGHT: Dr. Ashyk Sykander and the IHS Draft New Policies & Guidelines During COVID-19

While he may be from India originally, Dr. Ashyk Sykander now lives here in the United States and is the Chief Dental Officer in Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Health Department, and is helping to reform our country through his knowledge and training in the field globally.

The health department he holds that title is also closely affiliated with the Indian Health Service (IHS) which continues to work closely with tribal partners across America, including here in Los Angeles.

But what makes Dr. Sykander stand out is that he is actually the very first foreigner to ever hold the “Chief Dental Officer” position in the organization, and due to his ranking has been working closely with various organizations affiliated with the IHS to help draft new policies and rules that follow the CDC and American Dental Association guidelines during the pandemic.

With COVID-19 not going away anytime soon and the need for dental offices to not only reopen, but stay open, we spoke to Dr. Sykander about the dental industry and his role helping people across the nation through his expertise.

  1. The dental industry as a whole took a hit at the beginning of the pandemic. Where do you see the current status of it today?

These are tough times for health care professionals especially dentists. It is because working in close proximity with patients, as well as the aerosol generating procedures, makes dentists as risky as any other health care professionals. CDC and American Dental Association (ADA) helped with policies and protocols to guide dentists to open up safely. With Vaccine on board dentistry is in a much better place now than a year ago.

  1. What measures, guidelines and policies have you helped put into place during these times across the United States?

We have been following CDC and ADA guidelines. We have to modify the practice of dentistry with regular and teledentistry. On top we did a rapid covid test for our patients prior to dental work to ensure the safety of our patients and staff.

  1. What are your viewpoints on teledentistry and various new companies that are launching that have taken patients out of offices?

Teledentistry is not going to replace the art of dentistry from regular dentistry. However, it’s an adjunct dental service which is here to stay.

  1. You are the very first foreigner to hold the title of Chief Dental Officer with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Health Department, how did it feel getting this position and honor?

It is an honor to work for the Native Americans who are the first sons and daughters of our soil. This is my 4th year as Chief Dental Officer and so far so good.

  1. What are your goals as the Chief Dental Officer going forward in 2021?

Oral health is an important component to general health and it is very important from a very young age. One of the projects we are looking at is an outreach program to screen school kids in schools. 

  1. What other policies for the Indian Health Service across the US, and in places like Los Angeles, would you like to see happen in the future?

The practice of dentistry has changed because of pandemic. We are still not out of the woods. 

Personal protective equipment (N 95 masks, face shield, gloves, gown), social distancing in the     waiting area, other Covid precautions like hand sanitization, temperature check will become standard Protocol.

  1. What would your advice be to those here in Los Angeles wanting to become a dentist during these times?

Dentistry has been in the top 10 professions in the USA for quite a number of years. However, it takes a lot of time and money (tuition fees) to become a dentist. If someone is passionate and committed, go for it not for the fainthearted though!

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