Looking back on 2020 – the pandemic, the lockdowns and the massive economic hit the country has taken – it is hard not to conclude it has been, in the words of the Queen Elizabeth, something of an annus horribilis. Whilst I am sure many of us could think of a few choice ‘anglo-saxon’ descriptors for the year, the use of Latin brings with it a sense of... gravitas.
This is perhaps why, as the debates have raged over the correct course of action for governments to take, the expression “aegrescit medendo” was used on a number of occasions by those arguing that “the remedy is worse than the disease”. This position was derided at first, but as time has progressed and the negative impacts of the measures put in place have become clearer, it is now one which is taken seriously.
The effect of isolation and loneliness on people’s wellbeing is long established, but it is not just mental health that has suffered this year. Many general health services were suspended – including cancer screenings – the true cost of which we may be counting for many years to come, and of course dental services were also disrupted. The British Dental Association reported that there were 19m fewer dental appointments between March and October this year compared to last year. A large proportion of these were due to practices being forced to close during lockdown, but even when reopened attendance figures are still well down. Restrictive infection control measures combined with anxiety about covid has meant that patient numbers are unlikely to bounce back to normal any time soon. The repercussions of this could be huge, and will certainly not be limited to patients’ oral health. Dentists are often the only healthcare professionals that some patients have regular contact with, and as such they can have an important role in patients’ general health. (This subject is covered by Ben Flewett in his article ‘A whole body approach’ on page 48 and further complemented by the news story on page 10 regarding a study showing practices screening for diabetes.)