You walk into your dentist’s office to see staff members donning the traditional face mask. Smiling, you walk toward the treatment room and wait for your dentist to arrive. Expecting to see them in gloves and a face mask, you see they’ve added another layer of protection – a face shield. What is the purpose of this piece of personal protective equipment (PPE), and how is it keeping you safe? Let’s find out.
WHY IS THE FACE SHIELD IMPORTANT?
As part of the necessary PPE your dentist instructs team members to wear, the face shield plays an important role in the day-to-day operations of any medical and/or dental office. Because many of the treatments your dentist provides require the use of instruments that can produce aerosols (i.e. drills), sprays and splashes are a common occurrence.
These same aerosols can contain tiny droplets that are contaminated with bad bacteria and viruses. If they do not immediately fall to the floor, they can remain airborne for hours, infecting nearby individuals via the mouth, nose, and eyes.
To avoid potential infection, your dentist uses a face shield as an extra barrier, protecting the mucous membranes surrounding their facial orifices from harmful pathogens.
HOW DOES IT BETTER PROTECT YOU?
Generally, these forms of PPE are designed to protect your dentist and their team members; however, they can also serve a dual purpose in keeping you safe. Should your hygienist suddenly need to sneeze or cough while cleaning your teeth, the shield and other necessary PPE will protect you from any airborne particles they emit.
The face shield is most often always worn in combination with a face mask and protective eyewear, so there will be at least two additional layers between you and your dentist at all times. In fact, researchers have found that the risk of potential contamination decreases significantly when a shield is used in addition to other forms of PPE.
In a study titled, “Face Shields for Infection Control: A Review,” investigators found that a face shield that has three contact points at the forehead and side curves that reach the ears, as well as an N95 filtering respirator mask, better protected the individual’s eyes, nose, and mouth from harmful bacteria and viruses.
While there are many different types of face shields available, you can guarantee that your dentist is making sure he and his team have the most effective equipment for optimal protection.