Majority of dental professionals in Norway concerned about SARS-CoV-2 infection
OSLO, Norway: Norway has not had a virus outbreak similar to SARS-CoV-2 in the past and did not have national recommendations for infection prevention and control in dental practice before 2018. Data on the psychological impact of the pandemic on dental healthcare workers in many countries is still lacking. Therefore, researchers from the Oral Health Centre of Expertise in Eastern Norway in Oslo investigated the self-reported mental well-being of dental professionals during the COVID-19-related lockdown period in Norway.
The national lockdown in Norway lasted from 13 March until 17 April 2020, during which dental health services postponed routine, non-urgent care. The participants for the study were recruited in May 2020. Dentists, dental hygienists and dental assistants electronically received a questionnaire eliciting information on dental health service management, perception of risk and preparedness, and psychological impact in relation to the lockdown period. The data was used to compare the psychological impact on dental professionals who treated patients during the lockdown with that on those who did not.
The majority of the 1,237 respondents were concerned about becoming infected (71.9%), of infecting others (85.4%) or of their family becoming infected (76.9%). Most of the 727 respondents who treated patients (56.9%) felt significantly more insecure about whether they had become infected or not. The minority felt discriminated against by others (6.7%), were worried about dying (11.7%), felt that life was threatening (9.8%) or felt loss of control of their lives (8.9%). More than 80% of all the respondents agreed that their workplace had handled the situation well. However, less than half agreed that their workplace was well equipped to handle an escalation of the COVID-19 situation.
Data analysis showed clear patterns in terms of sex and work experience regarding some areas of investigation. Female participants were more likely to be concerned about changes in their work environment, about being infected and infecting others, and about being in close contact with the virus. In contrast, participants with work experience of ten years or more were less likely to have these fears.
“The present study showed a considerable psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on dental personnel in Norway, with females, and clinicians with less working experience, reporting significantly higher impact. The results emphasise the importance of a safe working environment and implementation of proper infection control measures. This may help target specific areas that need to be addressed to reduce the psychological impact of dental professionals and prepare them better for future outbreaks,” the study authors concluded.
They added: “Access to adequate equipment, as well as clear communication, can be crucial in reducing fear of infection and the feeling of instability in the dental professionals when working with patients in a pandemic outbreak.”
The study, titled “Psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on dental health personnel in Norway”, was published online on 3 May 2021 in BMC Health Services Research.