With surgical masks supplies reaching critically low levels, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) today urges the Federal Government to step in to prevent widespread dental practice closures.
Mask supplies at a large number of dental practices across the nation are expected to run out within four weeks, due to extraordinary demand caused by COVID-19.
"Without surgical masks, dentists cannot treat patients safely and we run the risk of people going without treatment," said the ADA's Deputy CEO Eithne Irving.
"The ADA has been working intently with suppliers to locate new lines of supply, but we now believe that only the Federal Government can secure a supply of these masks to keep dentists' doors open."
The ADA has been advised that dentists cannot access the Government's stockpile of masks, but that Government is close to securing deals with two Australian manufacturers.
"We urge the Government to corral some of that new supply for dentists across the nation."
The ADA estimates dental practices use around 9.5 million masks a month as a new mask is used for each patient.
"We're doing everything we can to ensure dentists can see patients but without a guaranteed supply of masks, dentists cannot adhere to our strict Australian infection control standards. It means dental practices will be forced to close."
The Morrison Government has also announced it is considering stimulus packages for certain at risk industries affected by Covid-19. The dental industry represents $2.263 billion p.a to the Australian economy, according to the latest Australian Dental Industry Intelligence Report. The ADA believes that the dental industry must be considered as an industry at serious risk.
"Now it's down to Canberra – we urge the Government to step in and take the decisive measures needed to safeguard the long-term provision of dental services to Australians."
Background on masks: Surgical (Level 2) grade masks are intended to protect both the health care provider and the patient because of their design and filtration. In a dental practice, procedures generate large quantities of aerosols (with the high-speed handpiece and/or triplex syringe when doing fillings and ultrasonic when doing cleaning) and a number of diseases may be transmitted via the airborne route. Consequently dentists must wear suitable fluid-resistant surgical masks that block particles of three microns or less to provide the correct level of protection.