Background: The COVID-19 virus, which first appeared in December 2019, was declared a global emergency. Health care workers and dentistry staff are at high risk of exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 due to the characteristics of their profession. Therefore, in order to reduce the spread of the disease, various restrictions were published, including a directive prohibiting elective dental treatment and providing dental emergency treatments only.
Objective: The first aim of the study was to examine the compliance of dental clinics in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) dental unit to published protocols. The second purpose of the study was to examine whether there is a correlation between the professional seniority and level of expertise, to the level of knowledge among the dentists regarding the virus and the disease, and whether this impacted the clinical decision making by the dentists.
Methods: The study was based on a digital questionnaire sent to 150 dentists in the IDF dental unit. The questionnaire collected information regarding their level of expertise, Seniority in the profession, knowledge of the COVID-19 pandemic, the compliance to the protocols published by the IDF dental unit regarding clinical procedures and decision making in theoretical clinical cases. After the data collection, the correlation between level of expertise, level of knowledge about the virus and disease and clinical decision-making was examined.
Results: A total of 111 dentists responded to the questionnaire (74% compliance). It was found that the absolute majority of respondents comply with the published protocols. A negative correlation between professional seniority among general practitioners and level of knowledge regarding the COVID-19 pandemic was found, and a positive correlation between the level of expertise and the level of knowledge regarding the pandemic was found. As for clinical decision making in the various cases presented, it was found that as knowledge about the pandemic increased, better clinical decisions are made.
Conclusions: The mechanism of disseminating protocols to the dentistry system should be done directly and in various forms of media while monitoring in order to verify compliance with the implementation of the protocols.
In addition, increasing knowledge among dentists is essential for ensuring proper clinical decision making while reducing the spreading of the virus among caregivers and patients.
Keywords: COVID-19 epidemic; Dentist; Clinical decision making.