COVID-19: calls for sustainable solution to PPE within dentistry

Calls are being made for a sustainable solution to PPE in dentistry as the profession responds to the COVID-19 crisisExperts are calling for a sustainable solution to PPE in dentistry as the profession responds to the COVID-19 crisis.

In a new report published in the British Dental Journal, it states the short-term goals of the pandemic must align with the ‘long-term vision for environmentally-conscious action’.

This follows a World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate that in response to COVID-19, almost 90 million masks and 76 million gloves were needed globally each month.

Increased clinical waste

Currently, all dental team members undertaking an AGP treatment are required to wear a certain level of PPE. This includes:

  • Disposable, fluid-repellent gowns
  • Gloves
  • Eye/face protection
  • Additionally, a respirator mask – FFP3 or FFP2/N95.

‘Despite the increases in PPE provisions, there have been no such increases in the capacity to deal with the increased demand or resulting clinical waste sustainably,’ writes Arefeh Ahmadifard, the report’s author.

‘Our profession’s increased use of PPE is problematic in two regards: its production and disposal.’

She also proposes investment in alternative, more renewable materials to reduce the environmental impact of dentistry in the context of the pandemic. For example, plastic-free visors consisting of sustainably-sourced paper and wood pulp.

Similarly, she states such materials can also be disposed of with organic waste, rather than through incineration.

Sustainable response

‘Plastic is a valuable commodity, especially in the setting of the COVID-19 pandemic,’ she concludes.

‘It seems indispensable in times of crisis. Its applications in PPE helping to protect dental healthcare professionals and the population. However, its use and abuse brings with it many issues that will affect planetary health.

‘As such, we are presented with the twin challenge of responding effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic. And also ensuring that our response is sustainable.

‘If we are to continue without reform, our actions could trigger a public crisis in the future, putting the health of our environment at risk. As adversity paves the way for innovation, we are presented with an opportunity to impart substantial change and reform in our PPE provisions.’

Free PPE in dentistry

This comes as a new government plan reveals NHS dentistry qualifies for free PPE.

As part of preparations for a second wave this winter, the government commits to providing free-of-charge equipment to health and social care sectors.

Currently, the government is building a four-month PPE stockpile, which it aims to have accumulated by November 2020.

Additionally, the new plan is based on the experiences of the health and social sector across the pandemic so far. As a result, it is set to carry out PPE usage surveys within different sectors, including dental settings.

The full report can be read here.

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