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Care for a Better Tomorrow: How a new coalition of dental leaders is caring for our community

In the midst of the pandemic, dental professionals across the country have carefully and cautiously reentered their clinical practices, but not without significant challenges. The dental industry is facing an overwhelming tide of fear and the unknown, with very few avenues to turn to for answers and support. In response, a group of clinicians, industry leaders, and brands have launched the Care for a Better Tomorrow (CFABT) campaign to cocreate solutions and provide the necessary support for the mental, physical, and financial well-being of dental professionals across the country. Included in this group are industry innovators such as Dentira, BlueIQ, Tab32, and NACCI, among others.

By “caring for those who care,” the CFABT campaign works to build a better tomorrow—one where our frontline health-care workers have exactly what they need to prevent disease, restore health, and envision more equitable outcomes for our global society, all while maintaining their own well-being, safety, and empowerment. The campaign’s efforts are providing answers at a time when the dental industry is suffering from both an unusually high risk of COVID-19 infection1 and a recognized burnout epidemic2 among members of the US health-care workforce.

“It wasn’t just questions that had no answers or that dentistry topped the list of most dangerous jobs during a pandemic1 that shook us to our core,” explained Dawn Piper, CFABT community leader, moderator of the COVID-19 Dental Reporting Facebook Group, and registered dental hygienist. “It was when we realized our current standard of protection was inadequate and unattainable. We’re used to helping our patients cope with their own fears when they sit in our clinical chairs, but what happens when we are the ones faced with fear?”3

A myriad of new recommendations has been set in place by state boards and other regulatory bodies, but collective sense-making in the face of a novel coronavirus can be difficult, especially as safety guidelines continue to evolve.

“It can be really challenging,” explained Joe Fogg, CEO of onDiem, a national on-demand staffing platform that has played a pivotal role in distributing the campaign’s many services and benefits. “How does, for instance, a dental practice handle air quality for an airborne virus? What personal protective equipment should be supplied by the practice or handled by the professional? How do you responsibly and safely integrate your steady stream of temporary workers into your place of business?”

While dental professionals are generally adept at and experienced in abiding by strict standards of safety and cleanliness, the recent pandemic has exposed even the most careful professionals to a whole host of unknowns—along with potential violations4 and shutdowns.5

“I think we're beginning to see the early stages of some negative repercussions of health-care practitioners ignoring or being lackadaisical about the regulations that exist. There have been at least half a dozen reports that I know of where whistleblowing has led to penalties and fines, of dental practices that have not been prepared with proper PPE and respiratory protection programs,” said Dr. Ryan Lee, dental oncologist and implantologist for the US Army National Guard, and co-medical director of BioShield Healthcare. CFABT has relied heavily on Dr. Lee’s expertise. Since the early days of the pandemic, he has led several mobile strike teams and trained soldiers in performing nasopharyngeal tests on high-risk individuals such as nursing home residents and staff, doctors in veterans’ homes and homeless shelters, and key hospital workers on the frontlines of duty.

Topping the list of campaign initiatives is providing all dental professionals access to a safe and empowering workplace environment. To respond to this specific need, the campaign has developed a free safety training course6 to help dental practices and professionals remain current on COVID-related guidelines. Once completed, the course unlocks an exclusive curation of benefits and third-party discounts. The initiative is an effort that relies on cutting-edge educational technology, thanks to the work of Higher Learning Technologies (HLT), a Silicon Prairie start-up which offers mobile learning solutions for medical and dental students across the world. The COVID-19 course was compiled with the latest recommendations from relevant governing bodies and has been developed in conjunction with Forca Healthcare and BioShield Healthcare, leaders in safety, compliance, and COVID-19 preparedness.

In addition to safety protocol training, the CFABT campaign also provides continuing education, job opportunities for the community-at-large, business coaching, and insurance automation for clinics and practices. To date, ongoing initiatives include:

1. The free Smart Safety COVID-196 Training Course to help mitigate the unique risk of COVID-19 in the dental industry
2. Strategic support to members of some of the most forward-thinking dental service organizations (DSOs) in the country—Dental Associates of Connecticut, Kids Dental Brands, and others
3. Support systems, online communities, and services for 45,000 dentists, dental hygienists, dental therapists, dental assistants, and administrative personnel
4. A nationwide ambassador program for dental practitioners and students who want to play a leading role in transforming the dental industry

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