In mid-March, as the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) began rapidly spreading throughout the United States and deaths from COVID-19 began increasing daily, state governors imposed stay-at-home orders and ordered all non-essential businesses to close.
At about the same time, the American Dental Association appealed to dentists to postpone all elective dental procedures and to close their practices to all but urgent and emergency procedures.
If emergency dental patient care was necessary to treat patients, OSHA recommended dental offices use a combination of the CDC’s standard, contact, droplet, and airborne precautions. These CDC safeguards were designed to protect workers “from infection and prevent the spread of infection from patient to patient.”
Airborne precautions were explicitly recommended for any patients needing an aerosol-generating procedure, and for all suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infected patients. Examples of dental procedures that may generate aerosols include: Dental turbines, micro-motor hand pieces, ultrasonic scalers, and air-water syringes.
A New Normal in Dental Safety
As states begin to open up their economies by loosening their stay-at-home orders, businesses and their customers will need to adjust to a “new normal.”
For dental offices, a new normal will likely mean patients should not be surprised to see their dentist or hygienist wearing N95 respirators, surgical masks, or face shields. The use of PPE — respiratory protection and eye protection — during specific dental procedures is considered a necessary control measure to help reduce risk levels.
Exposure risk levels associated with performing typical tasks in a dental office range from low, medium, high, and very high. To help dental office employers evaluate the risks for workers performing various tasks, and to help in the selection and implementation of exposure controls to reduce risk, OSHA has created an occupational exposure risk pyramid.
Respirators & Dentistry
What’s new in OSHA’s dentistry work tasks occupational exposure risk pyramid is a recommendation for dental providers to wear respiratory protection, specifically a NIOSH-certified, disposable N95 filtering facepiece respirator or better*.
*During extended procedures in which aerosols or other splashes/sprays of water, saliva, or other body fluids could cause moisture to collect in/on a filtering facepiece respirator, OSHA recommends using an R95, P95, or better filtering facepiece; elastomeric respirator with an appropriate cartridge; or powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR). Note that disposable N95 filtering facepiece respirators and certain cartridges for elastomeric respirators may be adversely affected by an increase in moisture and spray from certain work tasks.
The use of respirators in a dental office has been issued as interim guidance by OSHA. It means dental offices will be expected to follow the requirements of OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134), which includes respirator selection, initial medical evaluations, fit testing, and training.
The good news is many dental offices are already subject to multiple individual OSHA standards, such as Bloodborne Pathogens (1910.1030), Hazard Communication (1910.1200), Personal Protective Equipment (1910.132), Eye and Face Protection 1910.133), and more.
So, it should not be too difficult for dental offices to follow the respiratory protection standard, especially with the help of Worksite Medical’s Respirator Program for Dental Offices, in partnership with First Choice Dental Lab.
About Worksite Medical
In most cases, OSHA requires medical surveillance testing, and at no cost to employees.
Worksite Medical makes that program easier with mobile medical testing.
We conduct on-site respirator fit tests (including N95 masks), as well as pulmonary function tests and heavy metal lab work, right on your job site. We also keep accurate, easy-to-access medical records for your convenience. You’ll keep your employees at work, and stay ahead of OSHA inspections.
With Worksite Medical, a mobile medical testing unit — we can bring all the resources of a lab to you. Our certified lab technicians can perform both qualitative and quantitative respirator tests to ensure a perfect fit.
Protect your team and your workplace now with Worksite Medical. Not sure what you need? Try our medical testing wizard here.
Give us a call at 1-844-622-8633, or complete the form below to schedule an on-site visit or to get your free quote!