Impact of the COVID‑19 Pandemic on the Psychosocial Wellbeing of Dental Therapists in Nigeria
Background: The first case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‑19) was identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019, as a highly
contagious infection transmitted via droplets, and person-to-person contact. Airborne and aerosol transmission have also been implicated. Aerosol generating procedures such as scaling and polishing may increase the risk for developing COVID-19 in dental clinics, and may thus place some psychological strain on dental therapists. This study aimed to determine the psychosocial effect of COVID‑19 on dental therapists in Nigeria.
Materials and Methods: This cross-sectional study was carried out following ethical approval from the institutional Ethics Committee. Data collection was through self-administered online questionnaires and included socio-demographic characteristics. Psychosocial well‑being was assessed using a five‑point Likert scale that assessed the level of worry. Scores were summed up to obtain the mean (range 5–25). Statistical significance was set at a level of P ≤ 0.05.
Results: The 192 respondents had a mean age of 28.0 ± 7.2 years, 96.9% were aware of COVID‑19. Sixteen (8.3%) participants reported at least one medical condition. The mean psychosocial‑wellbeing score was 18.4 ± 4.9. Most (90.1%) were worried about the COVID-19 pandemic, while 76% were severely worried about getting infected with COVID-19 in the dental clinic, and 72.9% were severely worried about the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the clinic. Participants with self‑reported medical conditions had a slightly higher psychosocial score (18.6 vs. 18.4), but this was not significant (P = 0.902).
Conclusion: The psychosocial effect of the COVID‑19 pandemic was considerable on the dental therapists. The provision of PPE, training on Infection Prevention and Control, and psychosocial support will reduce the psychosocial effect of COVID‑19 on dental therapists in Nigeria as they are willing to ensure patients’ safety.
Keywords: Coronavirus disease 2019, dental therapists, Nigeria, psychosocial wellbeing