During COVID-19, people wanting to go to the dentist here in Los Angeles had a hard time due to various restrictions. But now, with the pandemic slowly slowing down, offices are back open, and new rules have been put into place to ensure safety.
Dr. Kavish Gurjar, who is originally from India and one of the top dentists / implantologists in America, spoke to us one-on-one to give some insights and expert advice on the state of dentistry in 2021.
- 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?
Certainly, dental practices were hit hard by COVID in 2020. Now that the practice is recovering and returning to normal, I think many of us in the profession move forward with the benefit of valuable lessons learned during the pandemic. For example, I personally found new ways to serve and connect with the community of patients during the pandemic by providing free services for dental emergencies in Delaware, and making arrangements for dentists and dental office staff in my area to get vaccinated against COVID. The pandemic also gave dentists and their patients the opportunity to appreciate more than ever the importance of regular excellent dental self-care at home. To make the most of this opportunity, I provided educational presentations through remote instruction to patients and hospitals since in-person visits to the dentist were not possible. I also increased my engagement with patients through teledentistry as a result of the pandemic, and the expanded options for patient care, education, and monitoring that teledentistry provides are unquestionably a benefit to patients and dentists.
- What measures, guidelines and policies have you liked seeing put into place now?
COVID brought the dental profession together to enable us to find and implement the necessary measures to provide our essential services to patients. Following CDC guidelines, at our clinic, we have patients complete a COVID questionnaire before entering the office. We keep the waiting room empty, and have patients wait in their cars until we call them to let them know the chair is ready for them. As soon as they enter, we take their temperature. We also booked longer appointments for each patient, allowing an extra 10 – 15 minutes for hygiene maintenance and instruction. I personally like this protocol of taking patients’ vitals before they enter, and maintaining a clean environment for the health and safety of all patients and staff. Fortunately, current research indicates that dental offices were not hotspots for the spread of COVID.
- What are your viewpoints on teledentistry and various new companies that are launching that have taken patients out of offices?
I have always made use of all modalities available to enable me to provide excellent care to my patients, and today, teledentistry is a valuable part of the range of resources available to dentists and our patients, especially for emergencies, or for patients reluctant to come to the office in person during the pandemic. Current technology enables us to provide effective interaction between caregivers and patients through synchronous two-way audiovisual telecommunication connections, to receive asynchronous transmission of recorded health information from patients, and to provide remote patient monitoring. The dentist’s commitment clearly has to be to provide the best care possible to the patient, and teledentistry can definitely support that commitment.
- As a specialist in “implantology”, what new advances have you seen happen over the past year?
I became an implantologist at a very exciting time, and I am able to provide patients with much more than would have been possible even a few years ago. One area of technological development I am watching closely is the digital 3-D scanning space, which has major implications for dental implant providers. Personally, I am proud that my own highly technique-sensitive methods of using guided bone regeneration in cases of severe jaw bone atrophy are becoming more and more well-known in the profession. Since 2018, I have been using guided bone regeneration in patients whose jaw bones have atrophied to as little as 1-mm thick. Prior to 2018, it had been believed that attempting to use guided bone regeneration in such cases would actually be detrimental to the fragile bone remaining, but I proved otherwise! Since then I have proven the reliability of my technique by repeating in on 37 complex cases, and have presented my results in conferences and journal articles. For patients with extreme jaw bone atrophy, this is a life-transforming procedure, which can restore them to normal functioning, so I am very happy that it is becoming better known to dentists around the world.
- What are your own goals as a dentist going forward in 2021?
I’m looking forward to the opportunity to travel again and meet with others in my field face-to-face to learn from each other’s experiences. Other than that, I mainly want to just keep providing excellent dental care to my patients, including continuing to refine and repeat my specialized technique of guided bone regeneration in severe cases.
- How does the LA dental industry relate/differ to where you practice out of?
Basically patients’ needs are the same everywhere. But due to disparity in income, some patients are more able to have their needs met than others. Such disparity may be even greater in LA than where I practice in Maryland, but it is a problem around the world. With regard to dental implants in particular, I expect their cost will continue to decline over time, and hopefully will be covered by more health insurance plans. Having immigrated to the United States from India, I am particularly aware of the large numbers in great need of dental services, but with no ability to pay for them. One of my long-range goals is to open a complete reconstructive care center and non-profit foundation, for patients who are financially weak, but still want to achieve the same smiles and teeth that people in better financial situations can.
- What would your advice be to those here in Los Angeles wanting to become a dentist during these times?
Dentistry is a rewarding profession in many ways, but also requires a big financial commitment to get started, and a lot of time and dedication. So, be sure you understand what you are getting into before you go for it. I think anyone considering a career in dentistry should understand the importance of personal attention to each patient’s individual needs. A good dentist is always on call, because patients need to be able to reach the dentist in case of emergency. It is a lot of responsibility, but I consider my patients like part of my family and have built up lifelong relationships of trust with them.