I sit here looking at torn up carpet, smelling fresh paint and hearing nothing. It’s the middle of a Thursday morning and my dental office is silent.
I should be hearing my assistants laughing with each other, hygienists reviewing radiographs with patients, and 12 ops humming with high speed drills and suctions. The silence is terrifying.
You see, in January when we decided to do an office makeover with all new carpet, wainscoting, doors, paint and light fixtures, my whole team and I couldn’t be more excited for the coming months and what the future had for our four-office, multi-doc practice. Little did we know that two months later our personal and professional lives would change in a way we thought could only be viewed on TV.
Watching the coronavirus, the cause of COVID-19, spread in Wuhan, China, and other parts of the world in January and February, was scary; yet my optimistic personality said, “That won’t affect us in rural northern Missouri.” Sure, my retirement might suffer due to a global economic downturn, but I remember when MERS, SARS, and Ebola were extensively covered in the media, then it was business as usual in the U.S.
However, now, after handing out 21 temporary lay-off letters, retaining a skeleton crew of seven, managing weeks of patient rescheduling and sitting down with four partners about how to continue to pay rent, business expense, payroll and taxes, I am exhausted and really, really scared.
I started our first office meeting regarding the daily changes and updates caused by COVID-19 with, “We are in this together. You are my family.” I say the same to all of you as my dental colleagues, “We are in this together.”
Dentists have never had a time in recent history when we have felt the exact same fears and pressures as we do today, tomorrow and over the coming weeks and months. I ask you all to support one another and try to see the positive where you can find it.
I see internet groups on a whole new level of what I can only describe as hysteria. This internet panic needs to stop. As medical professionals, when it comes to emergencies within our offices, we are the cool, calm voice—the voice of reassurance and reason.
I ask you to bring these attitudes to our current discussions. Government and dental leaders are working tireless hours to help our country, our profession and our practices. However, in times when we are experiencing scenarios never planned for, when updates, information, and data change daily, we all must remember that just like in our practices when we want to provide high quality, accurate information and to always do the right thing, so must our government and dental societies and organizations. We must be patient even when it exhausts our psyche.
As someone who looks for opportunities in everything. I plan to spend the coming weeks cleaning, organizing and sprucing up every inch of all four of our offices. I plan to have my retained team members clean up our office accounts, catch up on business typically put on the back burner, and brainstorm for the future. And I look forward to the fresh look our main office will have with construction completed by the time we open our doors to our routine patients.
I look at my three children and my husband, and I look forward to getting to spend precious time we would have NEVER had as a family. If my husband and I are not practicing dentistry we are off on a vacation with each other or our family. With weekends packed with activities, we do not spend quality time like this at our home.
I am so thankful my family is healthy, especially my son who has cerebral palsy and is considered extremely at-risk for COVID-19. I am thankful that I have had so many supportive colleagues and leaders to ask questions and share concerns with over the last few weeks.
As dentists, we are planners. The fear of the unknown can be debilitating. But, I ask all of you to think positive as to what you CAN do during this time. Think about what you are thankful for and, remember, “We are all in this together.”
I don’t know what the coming weeks and months have in store for us. But if I have all of you, I know we will succeed and emerge stronger than ever.
Dr. Emily A. Mattingly serves as the 2019-20 chair of the ADA New Dentist Committee. Dr. Mattingly is a fourth-generation dentist and joined her husband and father in the private practice her grandfather started in 1954. Their growing group practice model provides care to the underserved areas in rural north Missouri. Dr. Mattingly loves serving the community where she grew up where she is involved in her local dental society and other organizations. She is a member of the American Dental Association, Missouri Dental Association and the Northwest Dental Society and an ADA Success speaker. She takes pride in taking on leadership roles, being an advocate for oral health, and aiding dental students and other new dentists in their professional lives. Dr. Mattingly is married to Dr. David Mattingly and they have three small children Elliott, Elyse and Adah Pearl. They enjoy traveling, being outdoors, reading, going to dental meetings and most of all spending time with friends and family.