Face masks have been part of dental personal protective equipment (PPE) and infection control practices for decades. As a dental professional, you’ve likely mainly worn a surgical mask to protect yourself from the splashing, splattering and spraying of blood, saliva and other fluids during common dental procedures.
More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased focus on infection control, with the coronavirus spread primarily through airborne transmission – namely via respiratory droplets generated when an infected person sneezes, coughs or speaks. In a dental setting, these droplets can become aerosolised during procedures that use high-speed drills, ultrasonic and sonic devices, triplex syringes and lasers.
What’s the best mask for my dental practice?
Terms like N95 and P2 masks have become mainstream over the past few years. However, between the level 1-3 classification of surgical masks commonly used in dental practices and the emergence of new standards like N95 and P2 respirators, there’s a great deal of confusion and misinformation out there.
To understand the difference between N95 and P2 masks, we should first look at the difference between surgical masks and medical respirators.
How are respirators different to surgical masks?
There are two main types of masks used in Australian dental practices – surgical masks and respirator masks.
Surgical masks essentially help protect patients from particles expelled by their dental professional and protect their dental professional from the fluids generated during procedures. Surgical masks are fluid-resistant and fit loosely around the face.
Medical respirator masks provide more comprehensive protection than surgical masks. They contain filter material and are designed to form a tight seal with the wearer’s face. Air must pass through the filter before it’s inhaled, reducing the wearer’s exposure to airborne particles and gases.
N95 masks and P2 masks are the most common respirator masks used in dental practices and medical settings in Australia.
What’s the difference between N95 and P2 masks?
It’s a tricky distinction – and in fact, the Australian Dental Association and NSW Government use the terms P2 and N95 interchangeably. Put simply, N95 masks comply with US standards, while P2 masks comply with the standards for Australia and New Zealand.
Scientifically speaking, P2 and N95 masks are both half-face particulate respirators that filter out more than 94% of airborne particles. (P2 masks are required to filter at least 94% of airborne particles; N95 masks must filter at least 95%.)
Manufacturers of P2 masks are required to meet some additional requirements under the AS/NZS1716 standards:
- P2 masks must conduct a fit test on a human to be certified and approved for sale
- P2 masks must have exhalation resistance to make them easier to breathe out of
P2 masks must prevent CO2 from building up inside the respirator
Where can I buy respirators that meet Australian standards?
Gienic stocks a wide range of respirators from Australian manufacturers and leading global brands like 3M and Halyard Health. We offer a variety of sizes and styles of N95 and P2 masks to suit various face shapes and preferences.
Our most popular masks are respirators with headbands like the 3M 1870+ respirator. Headband respirators like this 3M model provide a tighter seal and more comfortable fit; most ear loop respirators struggle to meet testing requirements.
Shop Gienic’s range of N95 and P2 respirators online or call us on (03) 9008 6358 to order masks for your dental practice today.
- N95 & P2 Respirators
3M 1870+ Flat Fold Respirator and Surgical Mask (N95/P2)$89.80 – $1,059.90 exc. GST Select options