Dr. Sharath Kumara Shetty - Periodontist & Implantologist
Professor & PG Guide at DR. D.Y. Patil Dental
College and Hospital- Pimpri, Pune.
Pandemic has had a huge impact on the dentistry industry. Dr. Sharath Shetty
speaks on the struggles of Dentists in adapting the new normal and ways to
succeed in these tough times.
Becoming a dentist is rewarding but a long process. In a career that requires utmost dedication and attention, Dr. Sharath Kumara Shetty has carved his name as one of the supremely talented and respected Periodontists in India. Following his dream of helping people by relieving their pain, Dr. Shetty completed his BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery) and MDS (Masters training in Periodontics and Implantology) from Govt. Dental College & Hospital, Bangalore. In 2005, he not only earned a gold medal in his MDS, Dr. Sharath Shetty became the first periodontist in India to pass the diplomate of national board examination conducted by the Ministry of Health India (MOHI).
Dr. Shetty’s life has been devoted to his patients and dentistry. He is a well-known Periodontist and a committed senior faculty at Dr. D Y Patil Dental College & Hospital with more than 22 PubMed Indexed Peer-Reviewed Publications in various 3 national and 17 international journals. Recognised for his work and expertise, he is the first Periodontist in India to receive a Grant of 50 lakhs from the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) in the 14th call of Biotechnology Ignition Grant (BIG) for his proof-of- concept study on the application of Stem Cells in periodontal plastic surgery. A skilled dentist and a responsible educator, Dr. Shetty justifies his interest in the subject and says, “During the days of my BDS, I realised that gums, aesthetics, salvaging the tooth/ bone are not given much importance. Therefore, I wanted to explore this neglected field of dentistry and make a greater contribution.”
The emergence of the highly infectious novel coronavirus led to a global pandemic, and since the outbreak, worldwide healthcare systems have been severely challenged. Dentistry was considered to be one of the highest-risk jobs, and for dental surgeons, the risk was even higher. The new social distancing rules, need for room ventilation and higher-level infection control protocols, stricter hand hygiene, face mask-wearing, and restrictions on treatments have changed the way dentists practice dentistry forever.
We ask Dr. Shetty what are the challenges he is facing due to Covid-19 spread?
The biggest challenge we are facing is the scare that came along with the COVID- 19 spread. The number of patients visiting the clinic has dropped as we had to restrict our treatments only to emergency cases as in our treatment close contact with the patients and aerosol generation is inevitable which further increases the transmission risks.
Being in the high-risk group how did your students respond to the situation?
Initially, panic and anxiety oozed from everyone and everywhere. We were forced to reduce the treatment time and take only emergency cases. Not being able to do as many cases as before has taken a toll on the mental health of students. Keeping them motivated and focused was the biggest task. But as their doctor/mentor and someone whom they trust the most, I must assure and encourage them.
How do you handle patients facing anxiety while coming to the clinic?
For me all my patients are equal but yes those who face anxiety need a bit more attention than others. I try my level best to make them comfortable in the office and make them understand the pros and cons of the treatment by explaining the procedure. In my opinion, educating them and motivating them is the first line of treatment. They ought to know that they are in safe hands.
Has anything changed in your clinic in the new normal?
Covid-19 has changed many things, including the way we
work in the clinic. Since there are long gaps in the treatments, history taking has become the most important tool for us to carry on the treatments. Now everything is different, in addition to the infection control measures, advanced personal protective equipment, such as face shields, masks, head covers, shoe covers and disposable gowns, we also have adapted to a stricter sterilisation and ventilation standards. We have to disinfect the clinic after each procedure with proper scrubbing and sanitisation.
Very strict protocols have been imposed for the handling of
instruments and materials in the clinic.
What are your views about the use of digital technology in dentistry? Do you find it useful?
In dentistry, delayed dental care can result in serious problems. Digital technology can be used to educate the masses and to motivate them for improving oral health and hygiene. From communication to efficiency, compliance, storage, risk, upskilling staff, and practice profitability, digital is the proven pathway. Another big advantage of digital technologies is that they are extremely useful while conducting research. Digital technologies make it very easy to connect with experts from different places and share data with them. These types of knowledge sharing are extremely important for the advancement of dentistry and at the same time making people aware of oral health and hygiene.
How did you keep yourself updated during and post lockdown?
During the pandemic I have, actively participated in various virtual knowledge- sharing platforms and helped dentist, periodontists, and other specialists to gain new insights into clinical periodontics. I have also been a part of one of its kind virtual seminars conducted by the world Dental Association where I gave my lecture on ‘Decoding Endo-Perio lesions’. It was viewed by 7200 people all around the World.
How do you deal with all the stress that comes along?
I spend my free time meditating. This helps me keep myself calm and release all the stress that comes with my work. Also, I love reading books on philosophy and anything related to periodontal surgery along with some good music.
While doctors around the world are helping patients battle the COVID-19 pandemic, it has posed significant challenges for the dentistry, evoking different reactions and types of response around the world. Amongst the fear of getting infected, low patient visit and psychological stress, the pandemic has made them experts in handling infection and stand strong for their patients.
As the lockdown rules have now eased out all over, people are now looking to get back to their normal lives, especially the dental students who had to go through pro-level experiences much before getting their BDS degrees. Sharing his message for his students Dr. Shetty adds “Motivations is the key to all success. Never stop learning even if the world is ending, it can end with you having learned something new rather than wasting time.” The new normal has redefined the way we live giving us a completely new world with new norms but, something that remains the same is the courage and devotion of the dental students and practitioners towards their work and the services of others, what else would you call a noble profession!
‘Dentistry is as old as the first civilization; the world cannot function without dentists. So, instead of worrying make the best use of the present moments and put all your efforts to achieve your dreams as there’s no other profession as pious as a healer, respect it and your peers.’