As a dental professional, your line of work has the potential to leave you more vulnerable to COVID-19 than many other professionals.
First, there’s the fear of what all people are dealing with: asymptomatic spreaders unwittingly putting you, your coworkers, and patients at risk during an appointment.
Beyond that, dentists, dental assistants, and registered dental hygienists are all in the very-high-risk category for aerosol production due to drilling and cleaning processes. Aerosols travel long distances, up to 20 feet, from their source. They also remain suspended long after your hypothetically infected patient leaves the dental chair.
Still, COVID-19 or not, your patients need your help, and you must earn a living. All you can do is protect yourself from the perils of dangerous risks like aerosols.
Naturally, the number one COVID-19 preventative measure for dental professionals is the correct use of PPE. For this notion to ring true, first and foremost, you require the most optimal equipment.
Securing Proper Dental PPE Equipment During COVID-19
Currently, many find it challenging to secure industry-standard PPE equipment, with dental practices scrambling to get back up and running amid the pandemic.
The surge in demand has far eclipsed the supply, causing high anxiety levels for dental professionals throughout the country.
Unfortunately, this looming issue has also led to an abundance of counterfeit products flooding the PPE market. Namely, knockoff N95 masks have resulted in multiple recalls.
They, too, cause problems with fit testing – a primary component of medical-grade equipment.
N95 masks are integral to dental professionals, and any discrepancies in how they are manufactured leave you open to some severe dangers.
The Problem With Counterfeit PPE
The Canadian Dental Association and the American Dental Association continue to promote N95 masks as the ideal facial PPE for dental professionals.
While there are certified knockoffs on the market, there remains the need to ensure those masks have NIOSH's stamp of approval. These legitimate imitation models are known as KN95, for the record.
Regarding the rest of the substandard imitations that don't meet specifications, these counterfeits will lead you astray. For a mask to be medical grade, it requires several layers of nonwoven material (e.g., polypropylene).
Furthermore, there are rigorous design specifications for the size and number of particles that authentic N95 masks can block. They’re put through a steady stream of tests before being certified.
Why Must Dental Professionals Stick with N95 Masks?
For optimal protection against dental aerosols, there's nothing compared to the N95s. It's worth noting that surgical masks are an option for other healthcare workers to protect against droplets, splashes, or sprays.
However, N95 masks accomplish an almost suction-like facial fit, boasting a highly evolved filtration against submicron airborne particles.
The N95/KN95 classification verifies that the respirator defends against a minimum of 95% of minuscule (0.3 microns) test particles. When these masks/respirators are correctly fitted, they exceed the filtration of standard PPE.
With the heightened risks involved in dentistry, investing in reliable equipment is necessary. Even if you're worried about budgeting, prioritize your spending on PPE that most protects those in your practice.
Best Practices to Purchase Legitimate PPEs
Below, we’ve prepared a short list of suggestions to help keep counterfeit PPE out of your dental practice.
Tip #1: Be an Eternal Realist
Don’t get lured into promises of tons of inexpensive equipment with unrealistically quick delivery. Remember that supply chains are strained, reliable PPE won’t be cheap, and deliveries will be slower than usual.
Tip #2: Perform Your Due Diligence
If you’re looking for an alternative to your regular supplier, research the person or company carefully. Find out how the masks are being supplied. Keep an eye out for red flags, e.g., someone saying they represent a Calgary-based company, but they sell out of Nova Scotia.
Tip #3: Meet the Maker
Know where the product is manufactured, ensure the distributor is approved, and validate their documentation. It isn’t easy to forge all documentation (e.g., instruction manuals, certification). Peruse all documents to see if there’s a warning sign.
Hopefully, we’ve eased some of your PPE-related anxiety as you get your dental practice up and running during COVID-19. Sable Industries Inc. is open and here to support your business needs.