In It Together

A community sourced archive,
documenting COVID-19’s impact
on dentistry

Sponsored by Patterson Dental

Many in the dental community have been affected by COVID-19 and want to share their stories.

As a result, the ADA is launching the JADA+ COVID-19 Monograph—a digital collection of stories, reflections, and accounts from any perspective, in any format, including articles, essays, podcasts, videos, graphics, and photos—that is open to all contributors. Submit your COVID-19 story here.

Stories by Region

Dreams Have Gone Dark – Dr. Michael Diorio


This is my personal thought entropy of the whole COVID-19 cluster that has rolled into our world like a fog, maybe like a wildfire? Perhaps with shades of a never-ending eclipse? Macro and wide-angle off leash cerebral perspectives on me/us as dentists and inhabitants of our planet.

I am a family practice dentist, closer to retirement than mid-career. Shut down for 2 months, slowly merging back onto the patient care freeway. This journey has taken me emotionally, financially and physically to dark and scary places, some I knew existed, others I had never conceived. Only recognizing depression from the occasional glimpse of normal that would bring on a feeling of euphoria.

Early on I was feeling a morbid sense of excitement, still feeling invincible because of all the previous life turmoil I have survived. A storm chaser of a pandemic. Ready to go to battle, help others navigate the pitfalls because I can handle anything. Then later having moments of being emotionally curled up in the fetal position, completely helpless and scared.
This is completely atypical to anything else we have experienced, and I chose to use an atypical style of communication that mirrors the world in a “mirror in a fun house” way.

Maybe it is more like an eclipse
an eclipse that perpetually lingers
2 large celestial bodies frozen in a synchronous orbit casting a never-ending shadow
Dreams, desires, plans, aspirations and life itself have been put on hold
significantly slowed down or vanquished forever
Once in a lifetime events have been lost, never to be fully experienced, to be shared
Maybe re-created at some future time wearing a perfunctory cloak?
It has brought death but forbids us from communal compassionate grieving
Is the darkness permanent? Will our previously known luminescence return?
Simple human contact and interaction, one of the essential elements of life
has greatly vanished
Casual touch and contact with others can energize and revive, yet is now in short supply
Masks contain the spread, but also contain identities, parts of non-verbal cues are swathed in white out
Pleasurable activities and events are on hold, re-emergence pending
Our outlets for fun, relaxation, modes and methods of coping with stresses have been altered or removed
Unknown is now the core shade of life

It is hard to plant new dream seeds right now
will it be wasted effort, hopes and desires sown on barren grounds?
Science and emotions in conflict, both real but incongruent, intertwined yet separate
one based on tangible facts, the other rooted in an accumulation of experiences and observations intertwined with long held beliefs
How do we live, move on through the fog, navigate to safety without even the stars to guide us?
Hopes right now are like ripe grapes hanging from the vine
unsure if their destiny will be a well-crafted wine or shriveled up raisins left for the scavengers
Realizing that some things lost will never return
or at least never return in the comfortable familiar form we previously knew
Walking a path on a cliff side with an unstable surface, either real or perceived
Every step is tenuous, solid ground or quicksand?
Strife and anguish, emotional and physical destruction
Forbidden to care as a practitioner, helplessly watching, unable to reach out and cure, prevent
Existing in a surreal hybrid, part fun house and part haunted mansion
No immunity to the virus
No immunity to the repercussions?
The invisible assassin, feeling the crosshairs of the scope on us
Will the trigger be pulled?
Paranoia & ignorance, abundant and extreme
Social injustice, unrest that has burst, a festering sore under our skin
Economic devastation

Music has always been my therapist, the soundtrack to my past and the fertile soil for future dreams. Does the music we can no longer see carry clues to the chaotic symphony we are performing? American Pie, the day the music died comes to mind. The Beatles Helter Skelter, will playing it backward reveal a cure? The punk band Ramones screaming I want (and need) to be sedated (ventilated)?

There is also hope, tales of David vs Goliath victories
Epic battles on the fields of health where disease has been slayed
Communal understanding & empathy still survive
Creativity, compassion and support still have a voice
Innovation and the basic desire to survive are still with us
Relief and reassurance abound

Re-emergence is occurring, like thin slivers of light that find the floor of a deep dark forest. I am cautiously hoping and praying that light slowly returns, disperses the dark and allows for new growth on the fields of dreams.

These thoughts are like pieces of some amorphous jigsaw puzzle, no true border or edge pieces to frame from, some fit nowhere in the puzzle, others fit everywhere. All our puzzles are different, yet they are the same. This may resonate with no one or may make complete sense.

First and foremost I feel our role as editors and journalists is to stimulate thought, to discuss the uncomfortable, to enlighten, inform, validate or question.

My hope is something I have shared or more appropriately spewed out validates one unique, strange thought or feeling that someone else has felt, or will feel through this quasi apocalyptic disruption. We are alone, yet we are not. Embrace the darkness, the distance and separation and use its energy to unite us once more.


Dr. Michael Diorio has a family practice in Englewood, CO, and is the Editor for the Journal of the Colorado Dental Association and immediate past president of the American Association of Dental Editors and Journalists.

Topics: Personal Essay, Region–West, Creative writing

Subscribe for updates