How supply chain problems are affecting dentistry

COVID-19 and the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine are two factors contributing to supply shortages that could affect the dental industry. 

Earlier this month, the American Dental Association and the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors provided guidance after a number of states and water systems reported fluoride shortages. They added that collaboration between dental associations, health departments, oral health advocates and community members is necessary in response to shortages to maintain oral public health. 

Meanwhile, shortages of three elements needed for dental surgeries could complicate patient procedures.

Fortune reported June 2 that the war in Ukraine could cause a shortage of nitrous oxide and helium, two chemical elements often used in dental procedures that Russia and Ukraine are large suppliers of. At the same time, a COVID-19 lockdown in China and supply chain issues with Pfizer lead to a shortage of lidocaine, wral.com reported June 21. The shortage caused providers to begin conserving their supply and canceling surgeries. 

Brandon Prusa, DDS, of Compass Dental in the Chicagoland area, told Becker's he learned early on during the pandemic to stock up on dental supplies to experience fewer disruptions in operations, particularly with PPE.

"I buy in such bulk just because I learned with COVID. Before I was paying $2 for a box of 50 masks [and] during COVID that went up to $75 for that same box. We still have these waves coming, so I've learned to really stock up on PPE just because when I find reasonable prices, I buy a lot just to help combat that issue because we can't be operating without PPE," he said.

Alex Poole, DMD, of Greensboro, N.C., said he is also seeing a shortage and cost increase of gloves.

"The major item I'm having difficulty attaining are gloves. I can get gloves but not usually my choice brand. So when I find them available I usually buy cases of them. Also, the price of the gloves have more than tripled in the last 18 months," Dr. Poole said. 

Brett Silverman, DDS, of Alpharetta, Ga., told Becker's his office is experiencing shortages of drugs needed for IV sedation, leading him to opt for alternatives while supplies are back ordered.

It is uncertain when supply shortages will be alleviated, but some industry experts and healthcare executives have offered some estimates. The ADA and ASTDD said sodium fluoride shortages are expected to be temporary and should not lead to a permanent discontinuation of water fluoridation. Meanwhile, hospital administrators told wral.com that the lidocaine shortages may not be resolved until next year.

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