Worldwide shortage of face masks risks imminent disruption of dental services

Worldwide shortage of face masksA shortage of face masks could cause ‘imminent disruption’ to dental services, the British Dental Association (BDA) says.

Current guidance says dentists must wear disposable face masks when treating patients.

However, due to the coronavirus outbreak, manufacturers are restricting orders and practice supplies are beginning to run out.

‘In recent weeks panic buying, clumsy rationing and naked profiteering have impacted dentists,’ BDA chair, Mick Armstrong, said.

‘Sadly a “one size fits all” approach from suppliers is leaving many larger practices with few options.

‘Our abiding interest is the safety of our patients, who face imminent disruption to their care.

‘Unless we see a rapid increase in supply, dentists without face masks will have little choice but to down drills.’

Inappropriate use

The BDA claims it is now seeking official advice after receiving numerous calls from members about the shortage of masks.

It is asking NHS England and the Welsh government to introduce clauses in NHS contracts should the situation continue.

China is the world’s leading supplier of face masks, with several suppliers tripling their prices since the coronavirus outbreak.

‘The world is facing severe disruption in the market for personal protective equipment (PPE),’ Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, said last week.

‘Demand is up to 100 times higher than normal, and prices are up to 20 times higher.

‘Widespread inappropriate use of PPE outside patient care exacerbates this situation.

‘There is limited stock of PPE and we have to make sure we get it to the people who need it most, in the places that need it most.’

Rationing face masks

The BDA estimates some dental practices will start to run out of face masks by the middle of next week.

A ‘one size fits all’ approach to rationing means some larger practices are unable to order more than 100 masks.

A single-surgery practice might typically get through 250 face masks a week.