Our New Normal in COVID-19
Like most dental students, I am a go-getter. I have a million and one things to get done at any given time but that’s how I choose to live my life, and I love it for that reason. From having a job, to never ending school work and fitting in time for volunteering, I always have something to do. I live for my packed schedule, and just like millions of other Americans, in the span of two weeks the rug had been pulled out from underneath me. In the months leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, I had been anxiously watching the news and waiting for the unavoidable truth; it was coming. Within a week I lost my job, classes went online and I could no longer live the social life I once had. I went from worrying about what I would wear out next Friday to worrying about the safety of my patients, grandparents, and so many others. So far, I have spent 45 days straight at home avoiding stores, friends and the outside world as much as humanly possible. To say that I am bored is an understatement and the transition from my once exciting and busy life has not been an easy one. Of course it is for the best, I truly believe that social distancing is key to help us get through this pandemic, but the truth is that this is hard. It is a new way to learn, interact and ultimately live.
When the pandemic first started, I thought it would come and go. My naive young adult mind had me thinking that things would go back to the way they once were. But the truth is the world has changed, much like it has for other monumental events in human history; 9/11 and the AIDS epidemic, just to name a few. Airports, hospitals, and our way of living changed forever following those events. Although I was very young, I do have some recollection of the airports before 9/11. I remember it being an exciting place with easy security and fast lines. After the horrific event, it quickly became an anxiety filled nightmare that put many people on edge, especially us in NYS. As I grew older the airport continued to be a place of chaos and worry, but this also became the new normal. The intense energy when you step into an airport is now expected, and I am not sure if that feeling will ever change. I am starting to believe the COVID-19 outbreak will be no different. Just two months ago it was hard to image a world without hugging your best friend or being able to visit your parents. As the world begins to change, so do our norms. I find myself darting away from neighbors on the sidewalk, avoiding friends and accepting my new life indoors. This is my new normal.
Along with this new normal comes changes to dentistry, but that doesn’t mean they will all be negative. As surprising as I was for me to believe, dentists did not wear gloves before the AIDS epidemic. Many of my professors even lived through this time! As barbaric as it seems to us in dental school, that was there normal. Similar to the N95 masks we will be required to wear, our future collages may look back and wonder how we survived without them before the outbreak. In addition, ASDA has made great strides in changing the way we assess dentists for licenses. For the first time, the ADEX is now offering parts of their exam on a mannequin. Previous exams had been done on live patients which lead to many ethical concerns. Hopefully, this change will continue for future dentists as a way to improve patient care in the clinical setting. Social distancing and the concern about aerosols are just a few more of the changes in dentistry emerging from the epidemic. There is no doubt dentistry will be different, but just like many monumental events in human history, we have an incredible way of adapting to our new normal.
As strange of things may seem, I am grateful for the simplicity of my current life. Within the last few weeks, the once permanent bags under my eyes have miraculously disappeared. I can sleep in as long as I want, probably for the last time until retirement, and I even have the time to read a book, something I haven’t had time to do since before my undergraduate education. The world is different, dentistry will be different, but it’s not all bad. It’s just our new normal.