SEMBACH, Germany – When it comes to patient safety and the health and welfare of their dental providers and staff, Army dental clinics in Europe are going the extra step.
The Vilseck Army Dental Clinic recently took an all-hands-on-deck approach and assembled and put into use 25 portable High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters in each of their dental treatment, or operatory rooms.
Working together as a team, the clinic staff quickly assembled the HEPA filters with one filter being placed in close proximity to each dental treatment chair, to provide an additional layer of protection against COVID-19.
“The teamwork demonstrated by the entire clinic staff allowed us to complete assembly, and put into use, 25 HEPA filters in a little over two hours,” said Maj. (Dr.) Katherine Darling-Lund, officer in charge of the Vilseck Army Dental Clinic. “The HEPA filtration units are portable and can be transported to other areas of the clinic as needed.”
As a result of the current COVID epidemic, Army dental clinics in Europe are taking extra precautions and steps to ensure the safety of their beneficiaries and staffs.
“All Army dental clinics in Europe are being outfitted with HEPA filtration units, essentially one unit per treatment room,” said Col. (Dr.) Manuel Pozo-Alonso, commander of Dental Health Command Europe. “As a result, we are getting very positive feedback from patients and staff alike.”
“Additionally, we are finalizing the construction of six Expeditionary Dental Airborne Infectious Isolation Rooms (EDAIIR) across the region to be able to treat COVID-19 positive patients under negative pressure if the need arises,” Pozo-Alonso added.
According to industrial hygiene experts, HEPA filters are capable of trapping a minimum of 99.97% of submicron airborne particulates down to a 0.3 micron particle size.
“The HEPA filtration units installed in the clinics are able to trap not only fine dust, allergens and mold, they also capture bacteria and viruses effectively sanitizing the air,” said Darling-Lund. “Standard air filters range from coarse-to-medium air filters and like HEPA filters, they use electrostatic filters to capture electrically charged particles that attach themselves to the filter plates. However, standard air filters are not efficient enough to trap fine dusts, bacteria and viruses like the HEPA filter and will not provide air sanitization.”
According to the CDC, dental settings have unique characteristics that warrant specific infection control considerations.
“HEPA filtration units, as recommended by the CDC, are a reasonable measure to augment dental treatment facilities’ HVAC systems,” added Pozo-Alonso. “They help remove aerosols and fine particulates during aerosol producing dental procedures.”
In addition to installing HEPA filtration systems in their clinic, the Vilseck Army Dental Clinic is also taking extra precautions to ensure patient safety.
“Our additional safety precautions begin with patient temperature checks and questionnaire screenings as they enter the clinic,” said Darling-Lund. “Also, our clinic staff have all been fitted with multiple types of N95 masks to be used during all aerosol generating procedures.”
“Additional personal protective equipment is worn by our staff to include; face shields, hair coverings, and shoe coverings in addition to eyewear, gowns and gloves,” added Darling-Lund. “We also installed plastic shields that are used to cover dental equipment and we alternate using every other treatment room so that a safe distance is maintained between aerosol generating procedures.”