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    5 considerations for personal protective equipment

    Wearing personal protective equipment is crucial, but if you’re not using it correctly, you could be doing more harm than good.

     

    Face mask

    The right mask

    There’s not one mask that covers every task. Thus, clinicians match the right mask for the job at hand.

    “Are you, as a practitioner, wearing the right mask for the procedure?” Moore says. “Surgical face masks are medical devices and regulated by the FDA, and the aim is to protect us against bacteria, viruses, splatter, splashes and aerosols.”

    Different types of mask are used for different levels of care.

    “There are generally three different levels of your basic mask,” Moore observes. “For just a quick exam, you might use a Level One mask, and they are rated by ASTM. But that’s not something you’d want to use on a regular basis because that really is a low barrier. As you go up to Level Two, that’s something that’s really appropriate for many of your hygiene appointments and dental appointments – something where the fluid, the splatter and the aerosols are moderate. That could be scaling and root planing, your prophylaxis, endodontics, some restorative treatment and some surgical procedures.

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    “But if you want to get down to what we need to do with a high-barrier mask, it’s often something we do on a daily basis,” she continues. “It could be prepping for a crown, doing complex oral surgery, or if you look at it from a hygiene standpoint, when you use an ultrasonic or piezo scaler. We really need to use the right mask for the job. If you’re using a Level One mask when you need a Level Three mask, you’re not getting the protection you need.”

    Once the correct type of mask has been selected, proper use follows.

    “If the mask becomes wet at any point during the procedure, you need to change it,” Moore says. “And as always, they are single use. You’re changing them between patients. So, you may go through many masks in a day.

    “Often, I’ll see practitioners holding their masks down below their chin when they’re speaking to you, and that’s not protecting you,” she adds. “Unless that mask is on your face and has a good fit and a good feel, it’s not doing its job.”

    Moore says many practices just don’t understand proper mask use.

    “I do see that many practices don’t really know what they have and what they’re using for,” she says. “I’ll see a practice and they’ve got all Level One masks, and when I say, ‘Why is this?’ and they haven’t really looked at the different details that make that mask. There is fluid resistance, there’s particle filtration, bacterial filtration. Often, I see practices purchase based on what the rep is recommending based on price. But if you’re not using the right mask, it’s not protecting you.”

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    Robert Elsenpeter
    Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Dental Products Report and Digital Esthetics. He is also the author ...

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