Austin, TX – When it comes to cleaning the teeth of patients, it is a reasonable expectation for dentists to make sure they have the supplies they need. And in theory, it isn’t all that hard to do. The large equipment is a custom order, and they have websites and catalogs where they order their drills, picks, and other specialized toolsets. They even work with a few brands, such as Crest to get those little toothbrushes and floss care packages they send with each patient. It gets a little tricky, however, when regular supplies come into play.
Gloves, soap, hand sanitizer, and face masks are part of every professional health occupation that you can imagine. From nurseries to hospice, there are multiple care-related professions that rely on the use of these materials, because they are breeding grounds for germs. All it takes is a cough in the wrong place to contribute to an epidemic. That is why we work so hard to make hand-washing a standard.
In the last two weeks, we have seen the spread and mass panic from a novel coronavirus or COVID-19. It is a new derivative of a virus that has not been seen in humans before. And like most large groups of people do, they react in ways that make sense to them. One of the biggest behavioral trends besides the sudden avoidance of large crowds is the mass purchase of face masks. This is causing unintended consequences for dentists in the US. That is why we will talk about why hoarding medical equipment in the face of an outbreak is a bad idea in this scenario.
They Protect Others, Not You
Sometimes, wearing a mask is a smart idea. If you are in an environment with airborne particles that can get into your lungs, like dust or volatile chemicals it helps. If you are already sick with the flu, and you want to prevent it spreading in the dentists office while your child is getting checked up, then it is a great idea. But as far as preventative measures are concerned for a perfectly healthy people it isn’t as effective.
Sure, if you are working closely with someone’s mouth then you don’t want stray spit winding up in your mouth out of nowhere. However, if you are just walking around with it hoping to prevent yourself from catching the virus, that is another thing entirely. Wearing a surgical mask does not stop airborne viruses from coming in.
According to a recent article in Time magazine, which interviewed an expert on viruses from Vanderbilt University,
“It seems kind of intuitively obvious that if you put something—whether it’s a scarf or a mask—in front of your nose and mouth, that will filter out some of these viruses that are floating around out there. The only problem: that’s not effective against respiratory illnesses like the flu and COVID-19. If it were the CDC would have recommended it years ago. The CDC doesn’t, because it makes science-based recommendations.”
It Creates Artificial Price Inflations and Increases Supply Shortages for Dentists
Unless you buy something custom made, or at a higher grade, you can only buy these surgical masks in bulk. Because unlike China, Taiwan or any other country with surgical masks that people who wear them out in public, we don’t. In fact, until recently, this was hardly a demand. So, it is near impossible to buy an individual surgical mask just anywhere. If you want them at all, the only option is to buy them in bulk from a manufacterer. Usually by the 50s and 100s.
This creates a host of problems. For starters, unless you know how to wear them constantly, the more likely scenario is that you are going to buy it in bulk, wear a few of the masks, then throw or give away the extras. Either that or they would all sit in a stockpile somewhere. This creates a waste of money for a bulk order of surgical masks that you hardly use. But that isn’t the worst of it. You are also contributing to:
- Increasing the price of masks and gloves through a sudden spike in demand, making it more expensive for hospitals to buy.
- Increasing the danger of virus exposure to other patients and health care professionals via supply shortage.
- And increasing the spread of other ilnesses to doctors, caregivers, dentists, and patients because those medical supplies are currently being rationed.
Don’t Panic and Wash Your Hands
In short, if we keep up this pattern of behavior, we will have a bigger health crisis on our hands. But what can you do in this scenario? It’s simple. Keep calm, and wash your hands. Avoid touching your face, ears, and mouth as much as you can. Don’t share off the same plate or drink after someone else from the same container. The more we react without knowing or understanding a subject matter, the more dangerous things can get. It is not easy but all we can do is learn as much as we can, and listen to the experts about what route we need to take to decrease the chances of making the spread of this virus worse.
A good source of education for this kind of thing is the World Health Organization. They are dedicated to looking after the health and welfare of the global population by combatting the spread of disease.