Dentists in France have posted naked photos of themselves on social media in an effort to draw attention to their need for personal protective equipment.
With the hashtag #dentistesapoil, meaning “naked dentists”, they’ve gone au naturel to show how it feels to be asked to work without protection.
In a video and posts circulating on social media, dentists are asking that the French government provide them with masks before they reopen their practices on May 11.
The movement has already made an impact, with the French health ministry guaranteeing four masks per day for dentists that will be supplied by pharmacies as they are for other health professionals.
“We understand your concern, your dismay and your anger at this situation,” Serge Fournier, president of France’s national order of dentists, said in a statement as he announced what the health ministry had promised.
Julie Zerbib-Martin said she started the movement with two colleagues in April: “Unfortunately we do not have enough protective equipment for returning to work.”
Posing naked is a metaphor for being forced to work “in a vulnerable situation with our patients,” she said.
The photos quickly went viral as dental surgeon Thierry Meyer gathered them into a Facebook album and another dentist Thierry Desaules posted a video on YouTube.
Now, more than 175 dentists have participated, Zerbib-Martin says. She’s even heard from speech therapists and others who have the same fears about returning to work without proper protection.
Dentists, in particular, are highly exposed to COVID-19 due to the proximity they need to have with people’s faces in order to do their work.
Dental offices have been closed during the coronavirus lockdown but are set to reopen on May 11.
Emmanuel Fougère is a dentist who has been working as a health assistant in a COVID-19 intensive care unit to help out during the pandemic.
He posted his “naked dentist” photo and then changed into full protective equipment to help with coronavirus patients, emphasising that he wore “everything that we’re missing in reality.”
Twin sisters Catherine and Nathalie Gros posted a photo of themselves in their office on Instagram, and said that they were condemning the lack of equipment for dental surgeons.
France’s health ministry had said that it would supply 150,000 masks to dentists ahead of the May 11 lifting of restrictions, but dentists said this was not a sufficient amount of masks since it would provide roughly three per dentist.
Zerbib-Martin added that masks have gone way up in price and cannot be pre-ordered from normal suppliers anymore.
“We haven’t worked in a month and a half… and we won’t be able to see as many patients as we used to,” Zerbib-Martin said.
“We gave our materials away [to hospitals] at the beginning of the crisis in solidarity,” she said. “Now we find that we have nothing left.”
Update: This article has been updated to reflect the change in the French government’s policy.