The right PPE to help dentists stop coronavirus
COVID-19, known colloquially as coronavirus, has had an immeasurable impact on the world in 2020. There has been tragic, ongoing loss of life, extensive quarantines, and countless brave key workers on the frontline. At PPE Solution, we believe in the power of personal protective equipment to help stop the spread of coronavirus, and help return the world to normal.
Until recently, government guidelines were focused on completely limiting the contact dentists would have with COVID-19. That meant no routine dental care, addressing urgent dental needs over the phone if possible, and avoiding Aerosol Generating Procedures at all costs. However, as lockdown measures continue to become looser, and with dentists set to open on June 8th, selecting the appropriate PPE to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is going to become essential.
For dentists, there are several key pieces of equipment that will help any and all practising employees to limit their contact with coronavirus, and prevent them spreading it further. Following on from pertinent government advice, as well as the policy of the Chief Dental Officers, and the Faculty of General Dental Practice (FGDP) we’ve put together a breakdown of what PPE you need to protect yourself and your patients.
Comprehensive coronavirus guidelines
Currently the advice stands that any and all dentists should stay closed if possible, while still maintaining a basic service. The General Dental Council (GDC )have emphasised that "dental professionals will need to continue exercising their professional judgement and weigh the risks in any given situation". That means providing telephone advice, triaging, and writing prescriptions where possible, without directly coming into contact with patients.
However, soon practices will begin to slowly reopen, which means that new procedures will have to be put in place. In a recent report, the FGDP stated that reopening in the correct manner was "vital to securing the oral health of the nation, and to maintaining public confidence in the profession."
Alongside PPE, which is the most important step staff can take in preventing the spread of coronavirus, there are several other measures that will help this transition massively. In putting this guide together we've combined data from reports from all major dentist bodies, as well as core government advice. No methodology is foolproof, but these steps will help mitigate risk massively.
Safe practice for dentists
Stopping the spread of coronavirus will begin in the pre-appointment section. The FGDP have stated clearly that "practices should consider preparing a digital strategy for communication using digital means to support social distancing." That means any all information relevant to patients should be freely accessible online, and any administrative tasks should be completed ahead of a patients physical arrival.
Once a patient has arrived in the building, further steps need to be taken to promote positive hand hygiene. That means actively encouraging washing hands, and providing extensive, easy access to hand sanitiser. While both of these were common in sanitary dental practices already, providing visible posters and literature re-emphasising the importance of extensive hand hygiene to staff and patients alike will be essential.
This further leads into the regular disinfection of surfaces, even in waiting areas or other spaces that wouldn’t be the subject of as much focus normally, as well as offering storage of bags and coats away from public areas. While this is basic hygienic practice, the fact that coronavirus lives on surfaces for up to five days should be a subject of particular concern.
Each practice will also have to consider how to enforce a 2 metre distance between all patients and staff when possible. That may mean staggered entry to the building, limiting chairs in waiting areas, and bio barriers in reception areas. It’s only by acting repeatedly on the best interest of all involved that we’ll be able to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
What PPE do dentists need?
There are clear requirements that the government has outlined for what PPE to use in medical environments. However, there are certain procedures that require more extensive protective equipment, so there is not yet a one-size fits all approach. These have been termed Aerosol Generating Procedures (AGPs).
PPE for Non-Aerosol Generating Procedures
For most every day dentist work, there are some simple means of protecting staff and patients from the spread of coronavirus. Importantly, this is not just a recommendation for key staff: this personal protective equipment should be worn by anyone who works in the building, including patients with suspected COVID-19.
- Fluid repellent face mask: The effect of wearing a face mask is simple: preventing contagious droplets from entering your own respiratory system, and preventing asymptomatic carriers from spreading droplets themselves. The best mask in this situation is the Type IIR surgical mask, with a bacterial efficiency rating rating of 98%.
- Apron: The simple act of wearing regularly-rotated disposable aprons means that any coronaviruses that have been spread to the surface of your clothing don’t have a chance of further contaminating patients, staff, or the environment.
- Gloves: As above, the use of gloves prevents the potential for further contamination if contact has been made with coronavirus. Washing hands is still essential, but disposable gloves reduce the chance of touching the mouth or face directly.
- Eye protection: This is only relevant if there is a risk of splashing or exposure to respiratory droplets, but in those instances it is extremely important. This can be covered by a full face shield, or protective goggles. Any chance for pathogens to enter your bloodstream must be avoided.
PPE for Aerosol Generating Procedures
One of the major risks of coronavirus in dentists comes from environmental contamination as caused by AGPs, since coronaviruses can survive on inanimate objects and remain viable for up to 5 days. The Chief Dental Officers are still advising that AGPS are avoided if at all possible, but in some situations that is not possible. The current list of AGPs is as follows:
- Use of high speed handpieces for routine restorative procedures
- Use of Cavitron, Piezosonic or other mechanised scalers
- Polishing teeth
- High pressure 3:1 air syringe
The number one priority is always looking after the safety of staff and patients, so if the AGP can be delayed safely, then that is the best option. In instances where these procedures aren’t avoidable, then the Chief Dental Officers have given further advice on a more extensive range of personal protective equipment to wear in order to reduce risk.
- FFP3 respirator mask: These are the highest quality respirator masks available, with the highest filtering face protector rating: class 3. That means they filter out 99% of all bacteria in the air, drastically reducing the risk of infection during an AGP.
- Long sleeved disposable gown: Rather than a simple apron, a far more comprehensive gown is suggested by the Chief Dental Officers here. The extra coverage ensures that after each procedure any and all pathogens can be disposed of on the gown.
- Gloves: As before, gloves are recommended to avoid cross-contamination between different procedures and patients. The more regularly you swap these gloves out for a new pair the better, since there is such a high potential for risk during any AGP.
- Eye protection: The current advice dictates that you either wear a full-face visor or goggles. We’d strongly recommend a face shield. When coupled with the respirator face mask, these two work in conjunction to provide near total coverage against any and all airborne infectious droplets.
Buying personal protective equipment
If the world is to return to some semblance of normalcy, then we must all make sure that we take responsibility for our actions and behaviour when outside of our house. That means using PPE to the fullest extent of its capabilities to prevent the spread of coronavirus by any means necessary.
In our certified PPE store you can find everything you need in order to properly outfit your dentist office. We provide surgical masks, respirator masks, face shields, aprons, bio barriers, goggles and more, all made from the highest quality materials. For your ease, we’ve even created a dedicated dentist PPE page that gives you a full breakdown of what equipment you need.
Face Mask 3-Ply Type IIR (Pack of 50)
Face Mask 3-Ply Type IIR (Pack of 50)
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