AUSTIN (KXAN) — There is now a mandate that dental hygienists wear N95 masks, otherwise they can’t work.
Dental offices are open, but some dental hygienists are worried about going back to work because they say there isn’t enough available personal protective equipment.
“Dental hygienist want to get back to work, but we need to make sure that proper PPE is worn and available,” said Janessa Bock, president-elect Texas Dental Hygienists Association. “When we polish your teeth, when we rinse you out, even when you brush your teeth, you’re generating aerosols. And those aerosols can last up to three hours in the air as well as travel over six feet. So, it’s definitely important for that PPE to be in place before we go back into the offices.”
KXAN News talked to some dental hygienists who say their offices don’t have enough medical supplies including N95 masks, gowns, face shields, gloves and hair coverings.
“If you’re unable to acquire PPE, which it is happening to dentists across the state, then you actually need to postpone the treatment or refer them to a provider who does have the proper PPE,” said Bock. “We’re trained in infection control. So, we should be able to treat the patients as long as we have the proper PPE.”
Bock said that the American Dental Association has told dental offices that they can charge patients to cover the costs of the PPE, but it’s up to each office.
“I’ve heard anywhere from $10 to $35 … it depends. At my practice, we won’t be charging because we feel like it’s part of our service and the goes to insurance,” explained Bock.
Bock works in the Houston area. She won’t start work until Monday when her office gets a shipment of N95 masks. She says to prevent the spread of saliva, they will use metal tools.
Her office is staggering appointments so they can have enough time to disinfect. They’ll also be temperature checking patients who are now required to wait in their cars until their appointment.
“We just need to make sure that we’re safe and that we’re protecting the people when we’re going in and treating, because it’s not just the dental hygienist at risk. It’s the patient, it’s the front desk, it’s the doctor,” explained Bock.