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What is dental PPE

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in dentistry comes in two types. 'Enhanced PPE' is worn for aerosol-generating procedures.
Two dentists wearing personal protective equipment speaking to a patient seated in a dental chair
© University of Glasgow

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in dentistry comes in two types. One is worn for non-aerosol generating procedures and the other, also known as ‘enhanced PPE’, is worn for aerosol-generating procedures.

The patient care pathways

In healthcare there are green, amber and red pathways for patient care.

In a green pathway the patient must have tested negative for COVID-19 using a PCR test and must isolate at home immediately after their test and until their hospital admission. A green pathway is generally used for patients being admitted to hospital for routine procedures such as removal of their wisdom teeth under general anaesthetic.

Amber pathways are those where the COVID-19 status patient is unknown or untested but they are asymptomatic. All dental practices operate amber pathways.

Red pathways are for patients who are known to be COVID-19 positive.

Non-aerosol PPE consists of a fluid resistant surgical mask, eye protection, a plastic apron and gloves. It can be worn to examine patients and carry out non-aerosol generating procedures such as dental impressions or straightforward dental extractions.

Personal Protective Equipment Image 1 Infographic of person wearing safe PPE. (Source: Royal College of Physicians)

PPE for aerosol generating procedures consists of a surgical hat, eye protection which would normally be a full face visor, an FFP3 respirator mask which is fitted to the operator using a process called Face Fit Testing, a full length surgical gown and gloves. Vicki is wearing PPE for AGPs in the photograph below.

Personal Protective Equipment Image 2 A person wearing PPE. (Source: University of Glasgow)

Face fit testing

It is important that the FFP3 mask is very tightly fitting so that the wearer is protected from airborne hazards like COVID-19. There are lots of different FFP3 masks available so how do you know which one you should wear? A face fit test is a simple test which checks whether a mask fits the wearer’s face shape and size. The video below shows how face fit testing is carried out using two different methods.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

The FFP3 respirator mask can be worn for a full session but all of the other PPE must be discarded and changed between patients. Although the FFP3 mask is very tightly fitting it doesn’t affect your ability to breathe but it can become quite hot. You can feel quite dehydrated after a session in full PPE so it is important to make sure you are well hydrated.

© University of Glasgow
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