The proximity between a dentist and a patient during a dental procedure warrants protection against viral droplets for both individuals. The situation is more crucial now than ever before because of the coronavirus.
Indeed, updated interim guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using N95 masks and respirators during dental procedures. Even with the recommendation in place, however, issues surround the use of N95 masks, with many health professionals searching for alternatives.
To be clear, N95 masks are about 95 percent effective in filtering viral particles. It also bears the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) approval, the federal agency responsible for certifying and authorizing respirators that health professionals use in their practice.
The problem with N95 masks lies with how it affects professionals’ work efficiency. For instance, one study found that dentists experience dizziness, headache, and shortness of breathing when using N95 masks.
And of course, there is also a market shortage which proves to be the bigger challenge. In this case, scarcity compels many health professionals to wear the same N95 masks repeatedly. Worst, some would have to skip work entirely until supplies arrived — which should not be the case.
Fortunately, industry experts promptly addressed the issues by providing dental professionals with alternatives to N95 masks. Three of these respirators became the topic of Benco’s recent webinar.
The discussion centered around three NIOSH-approved alternative masks, namely PureFlo 3000 from Gentex, the Armor Clara mask, and the Clean Space HALO mask.
David Austin, Business Development Manager in Gentex Corporation, said a unique feature of PureFlo 3000 is the head-borne design. The feature is great because there are no belts, no hoses, no battery cables that could otherwise impede movements.
The head-borne design is essential when working in tight spaces where health professionals need to move around. For example, in a dental clinic, the dentist could attend to the patient hassle-free even while his dental hygienist or assistant works in the same room.
David highlights other advantages of using the PureFlo 3000 as follows:
A mechanism called the “breathing zone” located in the masks’ face area makes this possible.
The mechanism is essential in situations where the dentist attends to a patient who would have to keep his mouth open for the entire procedure. The dentists could breathe in and out freely with the mask because the air comes out above through a headband, away from the patient’s face.
The respirator has fewer pieces compared to other similar products in the market today. PureFlo 3000 has a visor, a headband, a HEPA filter, and two batteries.
All those parts come inside a single box. Assuming that the person using the respirator underwent proper training, all left for him to do is put the HEPA filter on and insert the battery.
All it would take are a few switches, some adjustments to make the mask fit the head, and the PureFlo 3000 is all set.
Since the hood covers the respirator, dentists won’t have problems in procedures where they need to wear loupes. Of course, how respirators fit the dentist’s head depends on his size, but standard prescription glasses and average spectacles shouldn’t be a problem when wearing the PureFlo 3000.
The PureFlo 3000 is “one size fits most” because of the adjustable headband in the respirator’s back.
The respirator has batteries that are like most lithium-ion batteries with a rate of 500 cycles. These batteries could last for several years.
For instance, if the dentist uses the PureFlo 3000 eight hours a day, five days a week, the batteries could last between a year to two years. But given that dentists don’t have eight-hour procedures daily, these batteries could actually last three years.
Jon Imms, Global Sales Director at CleanSpace, said the HALO mask’s unique feature is its ability to make the air flowing. Unlike the N95 mask, where there is a buildup of heat and moisture that could become uncomfortable, the HALO mask circulates fresh air.
Since the HALO mask offers comfort that wearing N95 failed to provide, Jon suggested that any health practitioner with surgery wear the HALO mask instead. Speaking within the scope of dental surgery, Jon said the HALO mask could protect a huge scope of dental procedures.
Other advantages of using the HALO mask are as follows:
The HALO mask has a cover that hides a filter that flips over the exhalation valve. This part filters the air that a dentist breathes out, ensuring that no air gets to the patient.
This feature is crucial, especially during procedures when dentists and patients may need not comply with social distancing.
The HALO mask’s transparent design allows the patient to still see the dentist’s mouth. The communication remains two-way during the procedure, even if it’s limited to non-verbal ones like smiling.
The HALO mask has a narrow nose bridge design that holds loupes and prescription glasses in place. While there are different loupes, of course, the HALO mask is compatible with a range of loupes tested against it.
How respirators are cleaned becomes crucial with how COVID 19 affects the health industry. HALO masks come with parts that require simple cleaning. The plug system, for example, could be placed on running water. The mask and the harness only require wiping and washing in warm, soapy water.
Cherie Le Penske, the founder, and CEO of Armor Dental Corporation, said Clara mask’s unique feature is cross-ventilation. It has a patent-pending valve that controls the airflow in and out of the mass.
The valve ensures that the one wearing the Clara mask breathes clean, filtered, fresh air. There’s no CO2 buildup, unlike with the N95 masks.
Additionally, Clara mask does not hurt the ears as with rampant complaints about the N95 masks. It has adjustable straps, and the insides of the mask have a comfortable silicone gasket.
Other benefits of the Clara mask include:
One of Armor Dental Corporation’s missions is to promote sustainability and cut down on disposables, which stands true with the Clara mask. The product is entirely reusable, whereas N95 masks are one-time use.
While reduced CO2 buildup contributes to the company’s mission of attaining sustainability, this is also where protecting the patient from viral particles comes in. Clara mask ensures that the air with which the practitioner is breathing is filtered. Simultaneously, when the health professionals exhale, that air is also filtered and protected for the patient.
The Clara mask is designed not just for the dentist’s use but for his entire clinical team, including the hygienist and the dental assistant. In fact, Cherie recommends using a Clara mask for any member of the dental clinic that works closely together.
The COVID-19 ushered in a new normal that disrupted the dental industry. However, the pandemic should not prevent dentists from providing care for their patients. Instead, dental professionals should find a way to emerge from the challenges.
One way for dentists to face the pandemic heads-on is to be better equipped with tools to protect them from contagion. Dental professionals could start this one step at a time, beginning with choosing the best alternatives to N95 masks. If you’re keen to know what your options are, reach out to your Benco representatives now.