COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease) is affecting the lives of everyone and since the onset of this pandemic history has and is being rewritten. Understanding the important aspects of this story is vital in understanding why and how changes have taken place. The more the medical community and scientists understand the better we will be able to combat the spread. 

The World Health Organization was notified on December 31, 2019 concerning an outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan City, China. Wuhan City is the economic hub located in central China and home to over 11 million people. January 5 there were 59 cases and not one of them had been fatal. Reports ten days following showed that there were 282 cases and four were in Thailand, South Korea, and Japan. At this time there were six deaths that had been reported in Wuhan and over 51 people were seriously ill with 12 individuals being reported in critical condition. 

The first reported death in the United States was on February 29, 2020 in Washington State. This individual had not traveled to China. Later, two deaths that had taken place would later be known as the two first deaths that were related to COVID-19 at a nursing home named Evergreen Health Medical Center in Washington. 

By March of 2020, the Coronavirus was present in all 50 states. And by June of 2020 states travelers were being asked to quarantine in place within the United States. The virus has affected us all and in every aspect of our lives. 

COVID-19 and Businesses Shut Down

Businesses large and small in the United States have been hit by this pandemic. New guidelines have been put into place in every business where there are employees and especially those who work with and serve the public. 

Social Distancing

Social distancing in the United States began in March and the last normal workweek for most parts of the country took place in the first week of March. By the second week of March much of the travel in the US was declining. By the end of March most Americans were staying close to home. Many Americans were working remotely, and schools were also performing classes remotely from home. States and towns were putting safety procedures into place.

Social distancing is still happening today, and recommendations are to remain 6 feet away from others and to avoid large crowds. 

Masks were recommended and now are a necessary requirement to visit many businesses and stores. Masks work as a barrier that stops a person’s droplets from their respiratory system from entering the surrounding air when a person coughs, talks, or sneezes. These recommendations are in place because of what we have learned about how the virus is transmitted. 

Social Distancing and Masks for General Public Guidelines

The Center for Disease Control recommends that all individuals over the age of two years old wear a mask when around people who they do not live with and in public settings. 

Along with wearing facial coverings it is important to make sure that handwashing guidelines are being followed. Germs are easily spread from surfaces and by other people by: 

  • Touching your mouth, eyes, and nose with hands that are unwashed 

  • Using unwashed hands to prepare drinks and foods

  • Touch contaminated objects or surfaces

  • Sneeze, blow your nose, or cough into hands and then touch another person or other objects that will be handled by others

Washing hands properly is one of the most effective ways to help reduce viruses and germs. Thoroughly cleaned hands can stop illness from spreading through a community.

The CDC recommends the following for handwashing:

  • Wet hands with fresh running water that is cold or warm.

  • Use soap to lather hands. Rub hands together making sure to get between fingers, back of hands, and under the fingernails. 

  • Thoroughly scrub hands for at least 20 seconds or more. 

  • Dry hands using an air dryer or clean hand towel. 

If there is no soap and water available using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is recommended. 

  • Apply gel to the palm of one of the hands. The instructions on the bottle of sanitizer will tell you the recommended amount to use. 

  • Rub hands together to make sure all areas of the hands are covered including between the fingers and under the nails. 

  • Rub hands together until they are completely dry. This should take less than 30 seconds. 

It is important to understand that those already infected with the virus may not be showing symptoms. Although a person may be perfectly fine (yourself included) it is still possible to infect others. The wearing of masks and practicing social distancing is important. 

Masks being worn by the public are different than those that are required by medical personnel and frontline workers. Masks worn by the general public can consist of many different types of facial coverings. 

Many have taken to making face coverings at home. Those who love to sew are making masks and either donating them or selling them so that others have the coverings available. 

The CDC recommends the following for masks that are homemade. 

  • Masks should have at least two layers of fabric to contain respiratory droplets. 

  • Breathable, washable fabric should be used in the construction of face coverings. 

  • Materials used for masks should be cotton fabric, elastic, rubber bands, or ties, and scissors. 

There are many resources available online for the construction of facial coverings including this one from the CDC:

Medical Masks and the Differences

Medical masks are not new to those in the medical field. Although many of us probably never dreamed that we would have to wear masks both at work and in public. Understanding the different types of masks and the protection they offer is something that we all need to be aware of and understand. 

Face coverings have been worn for protection against viruses and illness since the ancient times. The older medical masks only started to be replaced by disposable and cleaner masks in the 1930’s. By the 1960’s more synthetic materials were being used the birth of single use surgical masks took place. Advertisements for these comfortable and well-fitting surgical masks were both in print and on television. This was also the birth of a total disposable and more sterile environment that included surgical instruments, needles, syringes, trays, and more. 

Surgical masks of today are covers that are disposable and worn by those in the medical industry as personal protective equipment (PPE). They are manufactured using plastics and paper and most are blue in color. These surgical masks protect against respiratory droplets that are larger in size. These general masks do not offer safe protection from smaller respiratory droplets that may be floating in the air. These medical masks are not to be reused. Once the wearer is done the mask is to be removed. Discarded properly. Hands should be washed according to guidelines and a new mask put on. 

N95 Respirators

We have all heard of this medical device and the level of protection that it offers. The N95 mask is also called a medical respirator and is in high demand during this pandemic. These medical devices are not recommended for outside of the medical industry. The CDC has asked those who do not need these respirators to please refrain from purchasing them because of the shortage. Only health care professionals who may be exposed to fast moving sprays, splashes, body fluids, or blood should be using the N95 mask. 

ASTM Level 1 Surgical Masks

These masks are considered general medical masks and offer the lowest degree of protection. Level 1 masks are called low barriers. Procedures that warrant the use of this mask are examinations, lab work, and where there is not a heavy amount of splatter, splashes, or aerosols.

ASTM Level 2 Surgical Masks

Level 2 masks should be worn where there may be a moderate amount of aerosol, splatter, spray, or body fluids. These masks can be worn when performing limited oral surgery, sealants, prophylaxis, and other procedures. 

ASTM Level 3 Surgical Masks

Offer the highest level of protection and are often called dental masks. These are used by oral surgeons and dental practices around the globe. Level 3 masks are used for high risk of fluid and aerosol exposure. Level 3 masks are available without the shortage that is being experienced by those who are trying to locate the N95v masks and offer an extremely high level of protection. 

So, if the comparison was being made between ASTM Level 1 mask and the ASTM Level 3 we would know that the level 3 offers the highest level of protection available. Therefore, it has now become the perfect product for dentists getting ready to reopen their practices with the pandemic. 

ASTM Level 3 Mask Online

When choosing to order the ASTM Level 3 mask online there are many reputable companies to order from. There are warnings to be sure to double check the medical supply company and make sure that there are no counterfeit products that have been sold.

There have been reports put out by the CDC that there are companies who are selling counterfeit masks and N95 respirators and one can be read here: It is best to stay safe and double check the companies that you are ordering medical supplies and personal protective equipment from. 

Not too long-ago medical supplies had to be ordered and purchased from brick-and-mortar businesses and this is not the case any longer. Busy medical professionals save both time and expense with the ability to order online and have the medical supplies shipped right to the practice. Understanding that having many more choices of where to order from does not always lead to a better or trustworthy product. 

Yes, online purchasing is easy, but it does take some investigation on the part of the purchaser. If a certain product is needed and there are reviews make sure to read them. Look for reviews that have both positive and negative reviews and read them closely. Yes, there are companies that will pay people to write positive reviews!

Compare prices of the ASTM Level 3 masks. Most medical supply companies will offer discounts for bulk purchases. If you are comparing medical device suppliers and one has extremely low process you may want to do some extra research. Usually if the deal seems too good to be true there is something not right. 

ASTM Level 3 Mask Amazon

Another place to purchase ASTM Level 3 masks is on the highly popular Amazon. There are many reputable medical suppliers available and questions can be answered. If there is a problem with a product Amazon and the supplier do not just disappear to never be found again. Again, the supplier’s product page will have reviews that can be read for further information. If you have a question it can also be asked and answered right on the page.

At the same time, be weary that a lot of fraud surrounding surgical masks occurs on Amazon. Purchasing masks there comes with the liability of potentially being scammed out of your money.

If you prefer not to use Amazon a quick internet search will bring up a lot of suppliers and their business contact information. 

As dentists we love what we do and cannot wait to get back to caring for our patients. Following the guidelines keeps both our patients and our staff members safe. We have all been affected by this pandemic and all wanting our lives to get back to normal. No one knows for sure how long it will be before we have the normal, we had before the pandemic but in the meantime, we can care for those around us and keep everyone as safe as possible. For those who are getting ready to reopen their dental practices it is an exciting time with many changes in place!