Dentists Must Avoid The Risk of Overheating
PPE gear is designed to be close-fitting for maximum protection, but this can be incredibly uncomfortable for dentists in the height of summer.
The combination of dental practices reopening, wearing PPE gear and there being a summer heatwave is creating an uncomfortable situation for dental practitioners who are dedicated to serving their patients. Dentists were able to reopen from the 8th June, although a BDA survey of 2,000 dental surgeries found that only 36% felt able to do so due to the lack of personal protective equipment available. Although many practices have been able to receive PPE orders since then, the equipment is renowned for being uncomfortable and stifling to wear. This is a problem that will only be exacerbated by the recent heatwave. With temperatures reaching as hot as 34 degrees Celsius, here’s how dental teams can stay cool and safe whilst wearing their PPE gear.
When should PPE equipment be worn?
An Essex dental practitioner explains that PPE equipment must be worn during aerosol generating procedures. During AGP treatments, dentists, dental nurses or anyone else present in the room should don disposable gowns which are fluid-repellent as well as gloves, eye and face protection. An FFP3 is the highest standard of filtering face piece mask in the market, and should be worn during AGP procedures. However, FFP2 masks are also acceptable if FFP3 masks are unavailable.
When carrying out non-AGP procedures, anyone present in the treatment room should wear fluid-resistant surgical masks, eye protection and disposable gowns and gloves. All of this equipment is designed to be close-fitting and offer maximum protection against the spread of airborne contaminants such as Covid-19. The problem is that the nature of this equipment also means that it can be incredibly uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time.
Public Health England encourages workplaces to plan ahead and make internal preparations in advance of any soaring temperatures. Heat stress can be incredibly dangerous and was reported by at least 50% of NHS trusts in 2018, with 8% of these recording at least 50 cases. Heat stress occurs when the body is unable to regulate its core temperature and overheats as a result. Contributing factors include the weather, the internal environment, the clothing you’re wearing and a person’s work rate.
It is advised that dentists sign up to receive heat-health alerts from Public Health England and the Met Office. This will allow dental practices some opportunity to set control measures in place beforehand.
Protecting Dental Staff
Dental staff should be made aware of the signs and symptoms of heat stress so that they’re able to stay alert to any critical physical changes that take place. If you have a dry mouth, are urinating less often, feel faint, have difficulty concentrating, feel thirsty or experience muscle cramps then these are all signs that you could be dehydrated. Dental staff should take more breaks than usual, drink more water than usual and pay attention to the volume and colour of their urine. If a dark shade is noted, then this is also a sign that your body needs to cool down by taking on more water.
PPE supplies should be increased during the summer, to accommodate the need for staff to take more breaks and change more regularly. It may also be necessary to utilise additional staff to account for the extra staff breaks too.
Public Health England has published their full advice for dentists here. Put plans in place now to carry you through the summer.