A C change

01 February 2021
3 min read

Even during ‘normal’ times February can be a testing month. The weariness of continued freezing temperatures and limited hours of daylight can take its toll on one’s spirit. The enthusiasm for New Year’s resolutions has normally waned by mid-January – the “I’m going for a run in the morning, you’ll see” soon becomes “Maybe I’ll go later on actually… we’ll see” – but the turning of the calendar presents the extra mental challenge that comes with the achievement of reaching a milestone. For example, many people now take part in Dry January and abstain from the consumption of alcohol for an entire month. However, far from using the obvious benefits offered by going alcohol-free as motivation to continue with the healthy lifestyle choice – they celebrate reaching their goal with a booze up!

There is, of course, a huge benefit to breaking a big endeavour up into smaller, more easily manageable tasks. I am sure everyone has at some point in their lives been daunted by a task that seems so complex that they do not even know where to start. In situations like this having small, easily identifiable goals can help you find a route to success. However, it should always be remembered that each individual milestone is not a place to stop and relax, it is simply a checkpoint on the journey forwards to the bigger goal. This applies equally to things like selling a practice (as covered by Dan Freshwater on page 22), building financial reliability (something discussed by Richard Scarborough and Michael Copeland on page 26), refurbishing a practice (a story of one team’s journey appears on page 52) and even in clinical dentistry (our clinical feature this issue comes from Andrew Chandrapal on page 62).

Given that Februaries are often difficult, it stands to reason that this year it will be especially challenging as we are still dealing with the fallout from the Big C. No, not that Big C – there is a new one isn’t there? One which has jolted the entire global economy and caused entire societies to come crashing to a halt… when considering these facts one might think that the title of Big C deserves to be passed on, but given the incredibly high survival rate and the fact that we already have a vaccine developed and being rolled out, perhaps not. After all, cancer will be with us a lot longer than covid – doing more damage to more people for longer – so perhaps it still deserves to retain its status after all.

The concept of comparing the size of the two diseases may seem absurd, or perhaps even in bad taste, however it is not done with the intention of downplaying the importance of either condition, but simply to recognise that just because we are enduring a pandemic, other conditions have not ceased to exist. And unfortunately the focus on the coronavirus, although necessary, is having a direct impact on diagnosis and the provision of care for them. This is something dental practitioners are well aware of and the BDA warned about time and again. Dental practices were closed for a large part of 2020 and although they are allowed to remain open during the current lockdown, patient numbers are well down. The potential damage done to the population’s oral health during this crisis is immense, and clearing the backlog of care provision, if it happens at all, could take years. And of course the impact is not simply limited to dentistry. Dental practitioners are a key part of the healthcare community, and often they are the only healthcare professionals that patients see with any degree of regularity. As such dentists play an important role in identifying potential general health issues, including amongst other things, the Big C! The impact that the covid pandemic is having on dental professionals’ ability to perform important cancer screenings is the subject of Ellen Cummings’s interview with Michelle Vickers (on page 34).

It perhaps needs to be stressed that the point of this is not to ignore the reality of the pandemic and its effect on the healthcare system, indeed it is the opposite, that only when understanding the damage caused by a particular course can a reasonable conclusion be reached about what that reality is. And a lack of appreciation and respect for the work that dentists do unquestionably causes damage. If we could get to a place where dentists are properly respected by the wider healthcare profession and officials in government, then that really would be a welcome big sea change.