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JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia: A recent study conducted by dental researchers from Saudi Arabia’s Batterjee Medical College sought to better understand how COVID-19-related lockdowns have affected orthodontic practice in the Middle East. According to their findings, a majority of orthodontists believe that the pandemic will have a lasting effect on the way they treat patients, and many anticipate a reduced patient load in the future.
For the study, the research team circulated an online questionnaire among orthodontists and orthodontic residents across Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar. A total of 315 responses were recorded—205 from male practitioners and 110 from female practitioners. Orthodontic residents comprised 32% of the sample group, and the remainder were either orthodontic consultants or owners of clinical practices. The responses were collected between April and December 2020.
Predictions of significant shifts in provision of orthodontic services
Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to have an impact on the capacity of dental professionals to deliver treatment in the usual way and this been a challenge to them. Previous studies have indicated that traditional in-person consultations can be replaced by measures such as teledentistry and still enjoy a relatively high acceptance rate among patients, whereas remote monitoring tools can significantly reduce the number of in-person visits an orthodontic patient needs without compromising the treatment outcome.
In their study, the Jeddah-based researchers found that 88% of respondents believe that COVID-19 will permanently alter the way they treat patients, whereas 78% stated that they will have fewer patients in the future as a result of the pandemic. Despite this, a clear majority (68%) do not think that COVID-19 will affect the feasibility of orthodontics moving forward as a dental speciality.
Whereas 89% of participants stated that the pandemic had had a negative impact on their income, there were nevertheless some silver linings noted on a more personal level—88% reported that they remained excited about the orthodontic profession, and 66% said that lockdowns had actually improved their social lives and relationships with family and friends.
The study, titled “Perceived impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on orthodontic practice in the Middle East”, was published online on 10 November 2021 in the Journal of Pharmacy and BioAllied Sciences.