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Infection Control & PPE

Understand guidance on practice disinfection and types of personal protection equipment.

Dentistry During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the way dental practices operate and interact with patients. CDA’s COVID-19 Clinical Care Workgroup has developed tools and resources to support your team in following PPE protocols, infection control measures and keeping patients and employees safe during this unprecedented time.

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Elastomeric respirators: an alternative to N95 respirators

June 09, 2020 5821
Information and tips for using elastomeric respirators

Elastomeric respirators: an alternative to N95 respirators

Elastomeric respirators, such as half facepiece or full facepiece tight-fitting respirators, are reusable devices with exchangeable cartridge filters that are available as alternatives to disposable half mask respirators, such as the N95. Elastomeric respirators are valuable to have during times of high demand as they can be repeatedly used, cleaned, disinfected and reused.

The Centers for Disease and Infection Control recommends the following strategies to help providers increase their supply of respirators for protection during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cleaning and disinfecting elastomeric respirators

Interim cleaning and disinfection procedures of elastomeric facepiece components and filter cartridges may be necessary for reuse during shortages. If not done properly, interim cleaning procedures could increase the risk of contact transmission or damage to the filter media.

CDC recommends the following procedures to effectively clean and disinfect the respirators after each use:

  • Avoid contact with the filter media when using a cleaning or disinfecting solution.
  • When removing organic and inorganic matter from the respirator, trained personnel should wear nitrile gloves to protect their hands and limit the potential for self-infection.
  • Additional protective equipment such as gowns and face shields, as well as ventilation, may be required during cleaning and disinfection procedures. 
  • A detergent or soap and warm water could be used to clean the surface of the filter cartridge prior to disinfection.
  • Cleaning can be done using a clean, soft cloth dampened with warm water approximately 49°C (120°F) containing a mild pH neutral (pH 6-8) detergent and using a mechanical wiping action.
  • Other elastomeric facepiece components may be cleaned using the manufacturer’s recommended procedures.
  • For disinfection, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% ethyl alcohol and EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective against coronaviruses.

Discard filter cartridges if they become visibly soiled or wet, damaged, or notably harder to breathe through. Provided the cartridge integrity and filter have not been compromised, filters should be changed periodically and can be used for at least one year.

Sharing elastomeric respirators

During declared public emergencies when there is a shortage of respirators, the same elastomeric respirator may be used by multiple employees.

  • Elastomeric respirators issued to more than one employee should be cleaned, disinfected and inspected before being worn by different individuals.
  • Employees should label the respirator, conduct surface cleaning at the point of use, and return to a central location to be disinfected before reissuing the respirator to someone else.

Initial Fit Test Necessary

Dentist employers should understand that although the required annual fit testing requirement has been temporarily suspended, they are still required to provide the initial fit test for each employee who is required to wear a respirator.

Fit testing is a two-step process that is usually performed by two different entities: First is the medical evaluation, which is followed by the actual fit test.

Dental employers will learn how to locate a medical evaluator and a fit tester by reviewing the N95 Respirator/Mask Information resources found in CDA’s Back to Practice Resource Center.