Say Cheese ! And Click! A selfie was the norm with my little paediatric patients even after a not so painful root canal. They would flash their best smile and some would also be on their cheekiest behaviour, perfectly natural for the little ones who frequent my clinic. There have also been senior citizens notable among them, Sri P B Acharya the past Governor of Nagaland whose smile and simplicity touched my heart. Many other patients, equally valued, especially the smile of a senior citizen who gets a new set of teeth and to see a rush of satisfaction in their eyes is very precious. Indeed, a blessed moment to see the satisfactory smile on a patients face.

But 2020 changed all that. The pandemic brought in its share of woes. The lockdown meant businesses stopped, transport and tourism, food industry, you name it everything was hit including the health sector and mainly the dental profession. Many demonized the dental profession saying it’s the most dangerous especially during Covid times as the risk of exposure to aerosols is highest as well as the proximity to the patient. Even the ENT and Ophthalmic professions underwent the same scrutiny although there was no proof that one could contract covid in a dental setting. As a result many dental clinics remained closed for almost three months. The newly opened clinics had a tough time to manage expenses, EMI etc whereas many aged dentists retired prematurely and also some had to modify their clinic environment with no waiting areas, ventilation, etc. The main villain was the PPE Kit although it was a saviour too, PPE means the Personal Protection kit. Never before had we worn this equipment unless doing surgeries on HIV patients etc. Different kind of kits started flooding the market, initially from the land which gave us Corona itself-China. Many middlemen became “millionaire men” overnight as the demand for these kits increased and prices were manipulated until India grew to be one of the world’s biggest manufacturer of PPE.

Coming to the PPE kits and the masks being made mandatory the kids who would come had a scared look on their faces seeing our Avatars like we were aliens from Mars. Can’t really blame them Can you? First of all a ghastly Hazmat suit and over that a needle for treatment and through all that N95 masks, Respirators and face shields the doctor’s instructions also can’t be heard. Moreover, our vocal cords turning sore from shouting, the face shields fogging, the sweat inside the PPE. But there we were, the frontline workers as they would call, never hesitating to treat anyone in pain, the treatment aspect had never changed from before but YES ! The precautions were tenfold. Making Pain vanish is a gift and for a child. Its MAGIC! Covid may have dented our spirit but not our confidence. The children learnt to smile again and the selfie ? …well as of now its with masks. Yes, we do smile at our valued patients as we try to calm them and make treatment more comfortable.

The only difference is that the smile is now masked behind the PPE kit and layers of protection.  With the promise of a vaccine someday we will overcome that too and grin from molar to molar. Till then stay safe, stay healthy, follow all precautions and yes KEEP SMILING!!😀😀


-Dr. Sanjay Nayak.