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As of today, Italy has had the highest death toll of any country impacted by the coronavirus. According to the latest numbers available from the Johns Hopkins University, almost 16,000 people have already died from COVID-19. Dr Mauro Labanca lives and practices in Milan. In an interview with Dental Tribune International, the international key opinion leader in dentistry shared how the current pandemic is affecting the dental business in Italy.
Dr Labanca, what is the situation in your country in face of the SARS-CoV-2 crisis? What measures have been taken, and when were these put into place?
Italy was the first country in Europe to experience the infection, so we had to try to understand how it spread, and we had to make decisions on how to manage it, although we did have the Chinese example to follow. After an initial period of uncertainty, the prime minister put the lockdown in place, at first in a few small cities, and now it has been extended to the entire country.
How have the confinement measures affected you professionally and personally?
Professionally a lot, of course, given that we are not working at all. Personally, it has been a good opportunity to reassess my life and to realise that we can slow down without major consequences.
Is your office still open or, if closed, since when?
We have been closed since 16 March. Who knows how long this will last? We will definitely remain closed until 13 April.
Now that your office is closed for routine treatment, are you doing anything differently when treating your (emergency) patients compared with when it is open?
I try to follow official guidelines, but more for conscientiousness sake than because I feel we need them. My previous normal procedures were, from my personal point of view, more than enough to manage any risk of cross-infection.
During this crisis, how have you utilised your time in your work situation and in relation to your patients? Could you share a little about your personal life and the effect on the things you enjoy and usually have little time to do?
I have continued working on other issues in some way linked to my job, like taking care of my tasks at the International College of Dentists and preparing my next lectures. As for my personal life, I have had the opportunity to immediately read a book that I had received as a gift, and I found it so interesting. I have also been able to listen to music, watch movies and rediscover my almost forgotten skills as a cook.
“Many dentists with small offices, those maybe not highly ethical or up to date professionally, or not giving the best level of care, will not be able to survive and will just have to close for good”
Do you know how the confinement measures have affected the national dental market?
I don’t have a great deal of information about this, but I think that the dental market has been affected quite a lot, especially small companies that most likely will have a very tough time after this period.
No one knows how long this crisis will last. Whether it is short-lived or lengthy, do you think that it will change your business and the profession as a whole?
Honestly, I think that it will be beneficial for me. In my opinion, many dentists with small offices, those maybe not highly ethical or up to date professionally, or not giving the best level of care, will not be able to survive and will just have to close for good. That means that the surviving dental offices will have more patients to share.
One might hope that, in face of such a crisis, it would be appropriate to reflect and maybe change the way we live our lives for the better. What do you think? What changes would you like to see happening?
I would love to see some changes, but I’m quite realistic about humankind. What has happened has been a fantastic opportunity to grasp what is important in our lives, like friendship and having time for ourselves—time to talk instead of texting, time to meet people instead of being on social media all time. But I think people will be back to normal very soon and we may be even worse regarding all the bad habits we had before. I hope that the reality will prove me wrong.
Dr Mauro Labanca earned his MD in 1986 from the University of Milan in Italy, where he also qualified in dentistry and general surgery. In 2006, he created and directed the first master programme in marketing and communications in medicine and private dentistry, at IULM University in Milan. From 2007 to 2013, he was a consultant professor of oral surgery in the department of dentistry at the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan. He has practised oral surgery and implantology since 1992 in his private dental office located in Milan’s city centre. Since 2001, he has been director of the anatomical surgery course with cadaver laboratory at the institute of anatomy at the Medical University of Vienna in Austria and at the institute of anatomy at the University of Brescia in Italy. Since 2008, he has been a consultant professor of anatomy in the department of medicine at the University of Brescia.
Editorial note: This interview is the third part of a series asking dental professionals all over the world to share their experiences during the COVID-19 crisis.