Perceptions and conducts of oral and maxillofacial surgeons during the COVID-19 pandemic: A qualitative study

Ricardo de Oliveira Corrêa, José Alcides Almeida de Arruda, Amanda Isabela Firmino Gomes, Evandro Guimarães Aguiar, Efigênia Ferreira e Ferreira †, Cláudia Silami de Magalhães, Amália Moreno


The aim of this study was to explore the conducts and perceptions of oral and maxillofacial surgeons during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil. Nine individuals, mean age 34.8 years, 66.6% men, were included in the study. A semi-structured interview with a qualitative approach was applied to professionals belonging to a messaging application group (WhatsApp). Content analysis was performed in the light of Hellerian theory in its daily theoretical framework for the interpretation of the memories reported by the participants. Four themes were identified. The lack of knowledge about COVID-19 and the fear of being contaminated during care were the main factors responsible for changes in the professionals’ work routine. An important point was the collective reflection of the participants about the increase in biosafety barriers, which ensured a greater sense of security.


Oral health professionals occupy one of the highest risk positions for disease contagion [2]. These professionals, as well as their patients, are constantly exposed to numerous pathogenic microorganisms, including viruses present in the respiratory tract and oral cavity. Hence, those who work in a dental office are at risk of coronavirus 19 (COVID-19) infection due to the specificity of some procedures, involving proximity and face-to-face communication with the patient and invariably generating frequent exposure to saliva, blood and other body fluids, in addition to the handling of instruments that can generate aerosols [3].

Materials and methods

We followed Charmaz’s Grounded Theory approach since it is appropriate for focusing on the interpretative understanding of experiences, giving voice to the participants themselves [13]. In the analyses, after identifying the nuclei of meaning, the text of each one was condensed in order to identify the essence of the statements. Through this process, codes, sub-themes and themes were created. Codes are units of meaning that allow data to be thought about and translated, and their set determines a sub-theme. Sub-themes, when similar in meaning, can determine a theme [14]. Thus, the analysis allowed the identification of sub-themes and themes of the study.


Most participants reported a direct relationship between the initial interruption of attendance and its reduction due to the declaration of a pandemic by the World Health Organization and the decrease in earnings in their work environments, projecting a large financial impact on their lives. These data revealed an increase in anxiety, as illustrated in Fig 1.


This is in line with a previous study in which the reduction in patient care and the implementation of restrictive preventive measures created financial difficulties for most dental offices [22]. We also noticed that, due to one of the recommendations proposed by the authorities as a containment measure, there was an increase in the spacing between consultations, as well as the impossibility of maintaining the health insurance routine, consequently generating financial inflow. According to Ferneini [23], oral and maxillofacial surgeons are already facing a financial crisis with consequent economic deterioration. Furthermore, as the COVID-19 pandemic begins to subside, many surgeons may not be able to restart their practice, becoming aware of the financial impact on their practice in the short- and long-term [24].


In summary, after the advent of COVID-19, a series of developments had repercussions on the personal-professional axis of oral and maxillofacial surgeons. Consistently, there has been a complete change in their daily work routines, both in the hospital and outpatient setting, regardless of the public or private sector. Such modifications occurred due to the need to change existing protocols, which at the time proved to be ineffective in coping with COVID-19.
The pandemic had a direct impact on work activities, with financial losses for these professionals. Likewise, the lockdown also contributed to changing the social relationship of this public. With the gradual return to work with new biosafety guidelines, it culminated in the need for these professionals to be absent from their home, family and friendship cycles. This fact had psychological repercussions since these professionals were considered possible vectors. As such, increased levels of stress and anxiety were recorded by the oral and maxillofacial surgeons.


Mrs. E. Greene provided English editing of the manuscript.

Citation: Corrêa RdO, de Arruda JAA, Gomes AIF, Aguiar EG, Ferreira EFe, de Magalhães CS, et al. (2023) Perceptions and conducts of oral and maxillofacial surgeons during the COVID-19 pandemic: A qualitative study. PLoS ONE 18(6): e0286853.

Editor: Elisa Ambrosi, University of Verona, ITALY

Received: July 30, 2022; Accepted: May 25, 2023; Published: June 9, 2023

Copyright: © 2023 Corrêa et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data Availability: All relevant data are within the paper.

Funding: The authors received no specific funding for this work.

Competing interests: We provide this information in the manuscript. This does not alter our adherence to PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.

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