The voice of reassurance during Coronavirus, all at the cost of a smile!

Bollywood’s favourite dentist tell us how a smile can take away the panic from the pandemic
Mumbai-based dental surgeon Dr Sandesh Mayekar himself contracted Covid-19
Mumbai-based dental surgeon Dr Sandesh Mayekar himself contracted Covid-19
Updated on Jul 12, 2020 09:04 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByPriya Pathiyan

You’ve read all the articles and pored over every single Covid-19 statistic. You’ve ingested all manner of immunity boosters, followed the most rigorous fitness regimen and socially distanced to the point of disappearing. And yet, when a day dawns where suspicious symptoms bust your bubble of well-being, you find yourself at the precipice of panic.

It’s at this point that Mumbai-based dental surgeon Dr Sandesh Mayekar, who is often called the Father of Aesthetic Dentistry in India, can come to the rescue. What’s the eminent dentist, known for designing the smiles of Bollywood stars, cricket heroes and decades of beauty queens, got to do with coronavirus, you ask? Well, he’s setting up a helpline to help demystify the entire medical labyrinth of labs and swabs for the lay person, and offer timely advice and reassurance too.

For starters

It all began with the 66-year-old contracting Covid-19 himself. A saga that started with him experiencing the symptoms on May 30, involved several days of self-quarantining at home, getting admitted into hospital for 10 days (of which one was spent in the ICU when his oxygen levels dropped). He was finally declared virus-free and returned to his beautiful bungalow in Bandra West on June 18.

“Through it all, I made sure I kept my sense of humour with me. People say ‘fight Corona’, but I believe a better way is say ‘smile with Covid’, so that you can stay calm and let your body do what is needed,” he says, recounting how he made lots of little jokes that kept up the spirits of the frontline medical workers attending to him even as it made him accept things with equanimity. And although his youngest daughter and wife also showed mild symptoms that were easily treated at home, they all made sure that his 90-year-old mother was kept well away from risk of infection from them.

Dr. Mayekar will be partnering with his patient and friend actor R Madhavan to raise awareness about the importance of oral hygiene
Dr. Mayekar will be partnering with his patient and friend actor R Madhavan to raise awareness about the importance of oral hygiene

Maddy speaks

Actor R Madhavan will be joining the chat this evening. He says, “Dr Mayekar has been a great inspiration not just for his medical proficiency in the dental field, but he has also been exemplary in socially-beneficial activity. I’ve always been an admirer of his enthusiasm and his ability to touch people’s lives in the most beautiful way, and that’s why I wanted to partner with him for this webinar.” The discussion will be freewheeling but will have two central themes, he divulges. “We’ll be talking about the inspirational story of how Dr Mayekar got over his Covid-19 infection and the importance of dental health in staying healthy even in terms of nutrition and your gut.” The actor emphasises, “Counselling is important because in these times of great fear and uncertainty, it’s important to know that there is a 98 per cent survival rate.”

As someone who has done a careful contact tracing for his own infection, which did not come through his work as a dentist but via his personal network, he believes the best way to avoid infection is by wearing the mask properly at all times, washing hands often and keeping adequate distance from others. “One must also be aware that asymptomatic adults and even young children who can’t get corona but have just cough, cold and fever, can still be carriers. So, you have to take all the precautions even with people you know well,” he advises.

Going forward

Now that he’s made a full recovery, Dr Mayekar is keen that his knowledge and firsthand experience can be accessed by others who need it. And this evening, he’ll be partnering with his patient and friend actor R Madhavan to raise awareness about the importance of oral hygiene and a positive approach when dealing with coronavirus in a webinar open to all titled Smile with Corona – Your smile is your fortune. Other eminent folk, doctors as well as actors, are likely to join the discussion. Along with sharing their experiences, they’ll also be announcing a phone number and e-mail address through which people can contact him for help. He’s already in talks with a pharma company, which has offered to help set up a call centre.

Using this platform, Dr Mayekar hopes to communicate his core message of proactive positivity. He lays out his five-prong plan for counseling people to handle the pandemic…

1. Smile, don’t have fear: Fear will not reduce your inflammation or infection. The idea of ‘fighting the infection’ makes you anxious. If you have all the information you need and are able to trust your doctor completely, then I feel you can cope with corona better.

2. Understand your body: Noting your clinical symptoms is more important than running to get tested. Every fear is not Covid-19.

3. Use a pulse oximeter: Checking your levels of oxygen saturation is a must if you’re exhibiting common symptoms. If the reading is 92 and below, you will need hospitalisation.

4. Don’t be in denial: A chalta hai attitude is dangerous. It’s important to get the correct tests done and admit that you need medical help. I’ve already started counseling a few and have been getting them advice from doctors based on their medical reports. This helps reduce the burden on senior doctors, who are busy saving lives. I offer the soft skills, which are much needed but not everyone has the time to spare right now.

5. Trash the taboo: People hide that they’ve got the virus because there’s a fear factor and misconceptions attached to it. This needs to go. That’s why I want to come out and talk about being a survivor and even donate plasma when required, because that is what is necessary for getting the corona pandemic under control.

Apart from this initiative, which he hopes will be a beacon to lead the way for others to come forward with similar services, Dr Mayekar is also thinking up innovative solutions to deal with the pandemic. “For example, housing societies could use the refuge floor to create isolation spaces for patients. And like airplanes have mandatory safety videos, our buses could play audio advisories telling people the right way to wear masks, maintain social distancing, getting tested, etc.,” he starts to list. With all his connections in the right places, his ideas can probably be translated into action quite soon.

While he’s dreaming of and working to actualise a better world, he’s also getting down to brass tacks by creating something that could help doctors everywhere. We leave him in the middle of collaborating with some young designers from the National Institute of Fashion Technology to craft two-piece protective gear in ‘happy colours’ and safe material. Dentists are at a very real risk in coronavirus times and need to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) while attending to patients. But, as this can be quite bulky and limit proper hand movement which is crucial, Dr Mayekar has come up with a better version that he has named ‘Dentist Protective Equipment’ (DPE). “That’s my investment for the future,” he smiles.

From HT Brunch, July 12, 2020

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Wednesday, December 01, 2021