The author Sambhavna Dhawan Khanna is a dentist based in New York City. Want to contribute? Write to us at [email protected]
Rarely did I ever find anyone saying they were happy visiting the dentist. Yes it’s a tough job getting across to people, while treating their worst fears and yet establishing a long lasting association and goodwill.
As emotionally exhausting as it may sound and many of my fellow colleagues can relate to it.
Yes, it is the white coat syndrome. Even though now what we wore was blue.
Did anyone even consider the big eyed, double protected, over shielded person on the other side? Probably not, right?
It was different this time. Yes! your dentist was just as scared. Welcome to the
covidified fear that instills and has scared us from even shaking hands let alone dig hands inside people’s mouths!!!
Early April, as things started to open up and I was all ready to head back to work 6-month post pregnancy and ‘covid break’ as I call it. Never had I ever felt this strange, unknown fear as I entered my new office. To my surprise I wasn’t the only one harboring that fear.
As I entered the parking lot and walked towards the entrance, not realizing that there was now a backdoor that one needed to access instead of the usual thoroughfare and temp check.
The dress code was now only scrubs, head caps and a long blue overalls snug at the wrists. No more smart, pretty looking outfits dawned over with crisp white lab coats personalized with an embossed name.
Everyone brought in minimal belongings leaving the rest in their cars. Appointments were spaced out both in terms of time and distance. The usual adrenaline rush of using every possible minute and chair that defined our office culture was replaced with a slow, mellow and a retired pace. The subtle concept of ‘time is money’ at corporate offices was replaced with the ‘let’s go slow for health and safety’.
New consent forms for patients asking them to waive off the recommended 6 feet distance as it was something not possible in dentistry. Ticking boxes of having been vaccinated and no one in their families being sick that seemed like a pretty relative assessment of a range of symptoms ranging from a mild cough to severe pneumonia.
So, as I began pacing towards my room, a nervous clout over my head, vague reminiscence of something like doing my first case as a student, which was 20 years back. Wow! The feeling was similar, the reasons different. Not shaky hands or an intimidating professor but a looming sense of ‘what if’… the person a handspan away was a vector of virus transmission I might get affected worse case carry it back home. Every person was to be treated like a ticking time bomb of a COVID vector.
Something needed to feel normal to work normal. The first day felt scary, washing and sanitizing hands incessantly like a germaphobe. As long as there was no compromise in the treatment delivered, it was ok.
Eventually in a few days I had eased up. The abnormal is the new normal now. And just when that has happened, delta seems to be the new harbor. Let’s hope things do get managed, lest masks become our permanent clothing accessory and paranoia looms forever.
The views expressed are personal.
Want to contribute? Write to us at [email protected]