What types of personal protective equipment (also known as PPE) does the dental staff wear to keep your family safe and healthy? Before you go to your next family dentist checkup and cleaning, take a look at what you need to about PPE and pandemic-time dentistry.
What Is PPE In the Dental Setting?
Dental PPE isn't different from what you would see in a doctor's office, hospital, or other medical setting. Like the PPE doctors and nurses wear, your dentist's and hygienist's personal protective equipment includes face masks, goggles or clear face shields, gloves, and possibly protective clothing (such as a gown or similar disposable clothing item).
Has Your Dentist Always Used PPE?
Personal protective equipment use in the dental office isn't new. Well before the new normal of the pandemic, your dentist and hygienist took precautions to protect themselves and their patients. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maintains a list of requirements for dental employers and employee-related PPE (under specific hazardous or risky situations).
How Does PPE Protect Dentists and Patients?
The primary function of PPE lies in the name. These items provide personal protection to the dentist, the hygienist, and the patient. Your mouth is filled with bacteria. While this might sound alarming, oral microorganisms are completely normal. But this doesn't mean the dentist or their staff wants to expose themselves to the bacteria in your mouth.
Along with normal oral bacteria, your mouth and respiratory system could harbor viral particles. The close contact of a dental checkup, cleaning, or procedure puts the dentist and their staff in the direct path of your respiratory secretions — and vice versa. The physical barrier a surgical mask, goggles, or a face shield creates reduces the risk of viral or bacterial transmission.
Even though the dentist's face mask and shield (or goggles) are essential items to reduce the spread of microorganisms, gloves are also a necessary part of PPE. Like other family dental visits, your dentist and the hygienist will wear a fresh pair of gloves for your exam, cleaning, and any procedure you (or your family members) may need.
Will the Dentist Continue to Use PPE?
After the new normal goes back to the old normal, the dentist and the hygienist will still need to wear personal protective equipment. Even though some of the risks will eventually decrease, the dentist will still need to protect themselves and your family.