The Importance of Personal Protective Equipment: Apparel and Masks
In the dental practice, personal protective equipment and clothing—such as face masks, eyewear, gowns, and jackets—are essential for not only preventing contamination of street clothing but, most importantly, protecting the skin against exposure to blood and bodily fluids. Personal protective equipment creates a barrier between dental professionals’ skin and the mucous membranes of their eyes, nose, and mouth that effectively limit exposure to the pathogens and potential diseases they encounter every day. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Bloodborne Pathogens Standard requires dental healthcare professionals to wear gloves, surgical masks, protective eyewear, and protective clothing in specific instances to reduce their risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens.
Even though dental dams and high-velocity air evacuation can minimize droplets, spatter, and aerosols, dental professionals must still wear personal protective equipment as a barrier. Gowns, lab coats, and/or jackets are also required during procedures when there is the possibility for splatter and spray of blood, saliva, and other potentially infectious fluids and material. Such apparel should be knee-length, have a high neck, and sleeves long enough to cover and protect the forearms. Note that a dental team member’s uniform, street clothes, and/or scrubs are usually not intended for use as personal protective equipment. Therefore, a lab coat and/or gown should be worn over the top of them the aforementioned types of procedures. Therefore, to limit exposure to any infectious material that may have landed on the garment, it is advisable to remove clothing by turning it inside out as it is removed, so that exposed areas are on the inside.