Bengaluru: The COVID- 19 pandemic has been a nightmare for young dentists and dental students as their profession demands physical contact between the patient and the doctor. Last year, many students could not complete their clinical postings and hence lacked the practical exposure required to treat patients. Owing to this, it has become difficult for many young dental surgeons to secure jobs. While some are now pursuing non-paid internships, others are employed with a meagre salary. Last year, many dental colleges throughout the country remained closed in the wake of the pandemic. Online theory lectures were on, but there was no provision for practical sessions.
"Last year, when the pandemic broke out, I was in a village for a public health dentistry camp doing free dental checkups. Conducting these camps was a part of our internship. It is designed to equip students with practical experience. However, when the lockdown was imposed the camp had to be wound up. For the next few months, I was at home. When everything was back to normal, I started looking for a job. However, owing to insufficient practical exposure, practitioners were hesitant to hire me. Currently, I am pursuing a non-paid internship. I desperately need a job to clear my education loan," says Dr Snehal Parab, a fresh graduate.
Many fresh dental surgeons are reluctant to practice dentistry owing to the fear of COVID-19 infection. "I practised at a private clinic for three months after my graduation. However, I stopped it as it seemed risky to have direct contact with patients. Currently, I am a medical officer in an insurance company," says Dr Rishika Sahay, Mumbai.
Dental colleges in Maharashtra have started closing again as COVID-19 cases are surging rapidly. "The college management has informed us that lectures will be conducted online till April 30. We are used to online lectures as the same situation had prevailed last year. Online learning has its own demerits however, considering the safety factor the decision seems correct," says Rucha Kulkarni, Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) student at Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences, Karad.
BDS graduates who aspire to study further either opt for a Masters or short-duration dental courses. According to Dr Roshan, dentistry is a vast field. Higher education is helpful to master the techniques of a particular dentistry branch.
"Postgraduate courses emphasise practical training. Some people judge doctors based on their degree and experience. As I am planning to start a dental clinic, a Master of Dental Sciences (MDS) degree will help me attract patients," says Dr Eesha Pisal, Kolhapur.
The pandemic has disrupted the dental industry to some extent. Freshers are the worst affected. "The effect of the pandemic varies from person to person. Private practitioners with ample experience have survived. On the contrary, freshers who have availed of education loan are not getting jobs. Many freshers aspire to start a clinic in Metropolitan cities. For this, they seek banks’ help. However, the pandemic has disrupted all such calculations and has landed young doctors in trouble," says Dr Swapnil Taur, Assistant Professor, Department of Pedodontics, Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences, Karad.