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After the pandemic, what will be the new normal in surgery?

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Prof. Mauro Labanca. (Image: Mauro Labanca)

Tue. 21. September 2021

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In 1986 Mauro Labanca earned his Medical Doctor degree from the University of Milan, where he also qualified in dentistry and general surgery. He has practiced oral surgery and implantology since 1992 in his private dental office located. in the city center of Milan, Italy. He is an international speaker and key opinion leader for many leading dental companies. He is the regent of the International College of Dentists (ICD) Italian section. and registrar of the European Board and International Councilor, director of the course of “Anatomical surgery with cadaver lab” at the Institute of Anatomy at the University of Vienna, Austria and Institute of Anatomy at the University of Brescia, Italy since 2001. He also works as a consultant professor of anatomy in the department of medicine at the University of Brescia.

During many years of consulting around the world, I have seen not only many beautiful practices but also quite often some offices that have apparently remained in the nineteenth century, in spite of the owner’s knowledge and qualifications. Too often have I seen colleagues working as they did 50 years ago, not realising that professions like ours change radically very quickly and do not allow us to sit and wait, simply working as we always have done! 

Perhaps more attention is dedicated nowadays to new surgical techniques and new materials than to the management of surgical treatments with careful focus on sterility and biological concepts

Lecturing everywhere on sterility management, suturing techniques and preventing avoidable infections, and always to very crowded rooms, I realised how often basic concepts are totally unknown or neglected. I saw professionals performing surgery using normal tables, non-sterile gloves, and normal chair handpieces instead of handpieces driven by dedicated surgical motors. Perhaps more attention is dedicated nowadays to new surgical techniques and new materials than to the management of surgical treatments with careful focus on sterility and biological concepts. This way of working, incomprehensible in the past, becomes unthinkable today. Whoever was unable to catch the wave in the past is now fated to give up. 

I had many talks with colleagues all around the world after lockdown. The general feeling is that, on the one hand, after an initial period of patients’ disorientation, those dentists who were very professional started to go back to work as before or even undertook more work than before. The increase of patients in some offices could have come from the many practices who had not been able to update their style of working and closed, leaving many patients without their old-style dentist. 

On the other hand, immediately after the lockdown, we witnessed, in some cases, some very funny situations. Some colleagues, more concerned about personal promotion and self-marketing, returned to work dressed and equipped like astronauts. I saw some of them more protected than my colleagues who were working with COVID-19 patients in intensive care wards. 

It was clearly useless, even more so because working in such conditions is not affordable on an ongoing basis. Additionally, as with any protocol, the more steps we have to follow, the more risks we face when we discard some steps, not knowing the importance of the steps we forgot to follow. 

My personal conclusion is that the “new normal” is simply doing properly what should have always been done properly before. The pre-existing surgical standards were more than sufficient, and they do not need any update; they simply need to be followed and strictly applied always. 

Several studies have already shown that dentists are not at an increased risk of infection compared with the average citizen, so we only have to remember to work as doctors and not as carpenters! 

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