Your guide to mask options, standards, and features for your safety in dental practice

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Your guide to mask options, standards, and features for your safety in dental practice

The risk of COVID infection may eventually fade, but other diseases from the common cold to the flu are still out there. By stocking your dental practice with high-quality, compliant masks and respirators, you can do your part to keep your patients, colleagues, and community safe. (Photo: HuFriedyGroup)
HuFriedyGroup

By HuFriedyGroup

Wed. 16 November 2022

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The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced both the risks to which clinicians are exposed every working day, and the critical role masks and respirators play in mitigating those risks. Throughout the pandemic, PPE guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have evolved along with our understanding of how the coronavirus that causes COVID is transmitted. PPE and supply shortages have necessitated rule changes, as well.

At the beginning, when PPE shortages were at their worst, many dental practices had to settle for whatever masks or respirators they could get their hands on. Now, you can afford to be a bit choosier: it is a good time to review the types of masks and respirators available for use in dental settings and when to choose each option.

Surgical masks

Surgical masks offer their wearers varying degrees of protection from the environment. But unlike N95 respirators, surgical masks do not form a tight seal between the edges of the mask and the wearer’s face. However, Crosstex Masks that feature Secure Fit Technology do provide flexible aluminum nose and chin strips that help to eliminate gaps around any face shape, providing some additional protection within their filtration level.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, surgical masks were considered appropriate protection against spray and aerosols, except when the patient was known to have an infectious disease such as tuberculosis.

Current CDC guidelines (as of this writing) state that dental health care providers should wear surgical masks during procedures likely to generate splashing or spattering of blood or other bodily fluids along with eye protection (goggles or a face shield that covers the front and sides of the face), a gown or protective clothing, and gloves.

Crosstex CR-GCFCXSF Ultra Sensitive Fogfree Earloop Mask White

The standards organization ASTM International developed the universally recognized filtration scale that describes a surgical mask’s fluid protection level.

  • ASTM Level 3 masks, such as the Crosstex Ultra Mask, provide high fluid protection with a bacterial and particulate efficiency rating of 98% or greater and fluid resistance of 160 mmHg. Level 3 surgical masks are ideal for procedures that generate moderate or high amounts of fluid, spray, and/or aerosols, including complex oral surgery, crown preparation, implant placement, periodontal surgery, and the use of ultrasonic scalers.
  • ASTM Level 2 masks, such as the Crosstex Procedural line, provide moderate fluid protection with a bacterial and particulate efficiency rating of 98% or greater and fluid resistance of 120 mmHg. Level 2 surgical masks can be worn during limited oral surgery, endodontics, prophylaxis, restoratives, sealants, and other procedures that generate moderate amounts of fluid, spray, and/or aerosols.
  • ASTM Level 1 masks, such as the Crosstex Isofluid Mask, provide light fluid protection with a bacterial and particulate filtration efficiency rating of 95% or greater. Level 1 surgical masks are ideal for procedures that produce a light amount of fluid, spray, and/or aerosols, such as patient exams, impressions, and orthodontics.

When selecting from among the different levels of surgical mask, keep in mind that every procedure is unique. Use your clinical judgment to determine the appropriate protection based on the length of the procedure and the amount of fluid aerosol.

Added features to look for in surgical masks

Just because two models of a mask share the same ASTM Level, it does not mean they are equal in quality. Certain features can help make masks more comfortable for wearers or improve their performance (and therefore, boost patient and practitioner safety).

Some surgical mask features to look for include:

  • Secure Fit Technology, exclusive to Crosstex ASTM-rated masks. Secure Fit Technology’s patented design features flexible aluminum nose and chin strips for a customized fit that eliminates dangerous gaps around any face shape. Independent laboratory testing has confirmed that Secure Fit Technology offers superior protection when compared to standard earloop masks.
  • FogFree Masks include a strip on the inner layer that prevents glasses and eye protection from fogging up and obscuring the vision of hygienists and dentists. Crosstex ASTM Level 1 and 3 masks can be purchased with the FogFree feature.
  • Sensitive masks for sensitive skin. Some masks include hypoallergenic inner layers that are less likely to cause irritating allergic reactions. This feature helps people who have sensitive skin but nonetheless must wear masks for hours each day.
  • Color options. Colors can do more than make masks look nice. Color cues can help dental professionals quickly differentiate between ASTM levels, which increases efficiency and aids with compliance – especially in larger practices.

There are many, many aspects of life and work during the COVID-19 pandemic we will all be glad to move on from. But one thing we hope persists is an appreciation of the critical role masks and respirators play in infection prevention and control – for dental practitioners and their patients.

The risk of COVID infection may eventually fade, but other diseases from the common cold to the flu are still out there. By stocking your dental practice with high-quality, compliant masks, you can do your part to keep your patients, colleagues, and community safe.

More about our masks at this link: https://hufriedygroup.eu/en/face-masks-and-face-protection

All company and product names are trademarks of Hu-Friedy Mfg. Co., LLC, its affiliates or related companies, unless otherwise noted.

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