COVID-19 and Dental School

  • by Gerard Scannell
  • Apr 13, 2020
This isn’t an easy time for anyone, and, on behalf of every dental student, I’d like to thank AGD and its members for the support as we navigate this pandemic together.

Students have been affected by COVID-19 like everyone else, but, as a group, we have less control than others in dentistry. We are at the mercy of the decisions of our schools’ administration and other entities in charge of our education. Most schools, including mine, don’t know exactly when clinic hours will resume, and clinical requirements aren’t set in stone right now either. If faculty and administration decide right now what will be required once the clinic is reopened, it would likely change again based on continually evolving recommendations from the government. Schools have accommodated us well with online classes, but, speaking as a third-year student, clinical requirements are a major concern. We are forced to operate under many of the same limitations as practicing dental providers. 

What has affected students most, in my opinion, is the inability of third- and fourth-year dental students around the nation to take their respective portions of board exams. This is especially concerning for students nearing graduation who lack a license to practice. Everyone involved is trying to accommodate these students, but, unfortunately, substantial change doesn’t happen overnight. The process for obtaining a dental license is already complicated, and developing the process during this pandemic is even more trying. However, it is still possible. Many dental organizations have proposed solutions to this problem, whether it’s modifying the American Dental Association’s Dental Licensure Objective Structured Clinical Examination (DLOSCE) or instituting manikin-based exams to assess kinesthetic competency. We are currently waiting for the appropriate gatekeepers to decide what is best for students, patients and the entire profession. 

This is an unsettling situation for everyone, but I have found many positives during this uncertain time. I’ve had more time to connect with family and friends. I’ve been able to exercise more. I’ve realized how fortunate we are to have technology that keeps us connected. I’ve had more time for the things I’ve postponed due to school and extracurricular responsibilities.

During this ever-changing situation, I’m doing all that I can to stay well, both physically and mentally, and hope others are, too. I’m so proud of the generosity of the dental community and appreciate each and every one of you doing your part to get us through these tough times. I believe this pandemic has called on all of us to be stronger and more resilient, and I’m optimistic we will all be better for it. Be well. 

Gerard Scannell is a third-year dental student at Louisiana State University. He is the author of the AGD Impact Student Perspectives column.