Infection Control: Best practice for wearing masks and protective eyewear

4 January 2019

Both masks and protective eyewear are essential items of personal protective equipment and form part of standard precautions. Wearing these properly is an important way to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious agents. Staff need to be educated on the correct use of these items. A simple check of the website for many dental practices shows incorrect wearing of masks and eyewear. This same issue recurs in site audits and inspections. 

Many procedures generate particles that are travelling towards the face of the clinical operator or their chairside assistant, as well as particles that will be in the air of the breathing zone of both individuals. Common causes are the ultrasonic scaler, the highspeed air rotor handpiece, and the triplex syringe. These particles may originate from the patient or from the waterlines of dental equipment, and from cleaning procedures undertaken as part of instrument reprocessing. 


Eyewear must be optically clear, anti-fog, distortion-free, and closefitting to the face, so that particles cannot splash onto or strike the eye or the adjacent peri-orbital region. 

Corrective spectacles in regular frames do not have side protection. Most designs do not cover the orbit fully. For these reasons, conventional corrective spectacles do not protect the wearer from splashes of material, or projectiles created from powered instruments (such as when removing existing restorations) or from cutting wires. 

Reusable or disposable eyewear supplied for use in dental practices is required to conform to AS/NZS 1337:2012 Personal eye protection. Part 6 of that standard describes minimum requirements for eye protectors fitted with prescription lenses intended to provide low or medium impact eye protection from flying particles and fragments in occupational situations. 

Prescription lenses worn for vision correction can become a proper form of protective eyewear when the lenses are inserted in frames designed to provide a suitable level of protection to the orbital region. A variety of corrective lenses (including bi- and tri-focals or transition lenses) can be put into frames that are approved as protective safety glasses (Fig 1). More than 30 frames are available commercially. 

When purchasing prescription safety glasses, it is advisable to purchase a certified product, where a third party, such as SAI Global, have provided certified assessment and auditing of the manufacturing systems and the final product to ensure compliance with the standard. This differs from products marked as compliant where no audits by a third party may have been conducted to confirm this. 

For the rest of this article, please go to News Bulletin Online (December 2018 issue).