A Dentistry First: Fit Testing Events in PA

With support from Mobile Health, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) achieved a nationwide ‘first’ for dentistry: a multi-site respirator fit testing event for members.

As soon as the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) required N95 or KN95 respirators for all dentists, PDA president James A.H. Tauberg, DMD, sought an efficient respirator fit testing (RFT) solution for its 5,300 members. OSHA mandates fit testing for first-time N95 wearers to ensure masks fit properly, reducing exposure to certain airborne hazards, including COVID-19.

At that time, the DOH had limited state dentists to the treatment of emergencies and urgent cases only, explained Dr. Tauberg, a board-certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

At PDA’s request, Mobile Health arranged fit testing events at five Pennsylvania locations. The first multi-site event proved so successful PDA immediately scheduled a second four-site event, where registration tripled, and a third is planned.

All told, Mobile Health will have fit-tested nearly 1,800 PDA dentists and staff, estimated Dr. Tauberg.

Single Company, Uniform Protocols

“With Mobile Health, we had the benefit and convenience of fit testing the entire state with a single company,” said Dr. Tauberg. “We knew they would employ the same protocols for fit testing, social distancing, equipment disinfection and testing supplies.”

That contrasts with fit testing experiences other dentists recounted, he said. One saw a tester reading an instruction manual while fit testing, he said. Another encountered fit testing candidates mixed with other patients, possibly infected with COVID-19, without observing social distancing.

Occupational health provider Mobile Health has extensive experience in coordinating large-scale onsite fit testing. Earlier this year, it fit-tested 15,000 healthcare workers at hospitals and healthcare facilities. Read ‘A Journey with the Frontline’

An added perk: Dr. Tauberg has found his Mobile Health N95 Respirator Training and Fit Test Verification card to be an effective practice builder. “It shows patients you’ve done your appropriate homework, and that you’ve created a safe environment for treatment.” The RFT card documents testing date, mask make and model, and certified fit tester’s name.

‘New Reality’ for Dental Practices

The donning of personal protective equipment (PPE) is not new for dentists. Since the HIV epidemic of the mid-eighties, dentists have worn surgical masks, gloves, lab coats, safety eyewear, and more to prevent infection transmission, Dr. Tauberg said.

However, N95s and fit testing represent new terrain, he continued. Tapping DOH, American Dental Association (ADA), OSHA, and CDC resources, PDA educated members via webinars, web site and its mobile app.  One common misconception was that OSHA’s temporary suspension of its annual N95 fit test requirement due to COVID-19 meant dentists didn’t need to be fit-tested at all, a fallacy PDA corrected.

In addition to arranging RFTs, Dr. Tauberg headed a task force to procure PPE, now in short supply for dentists. Unsurprisingly, he encountered delayed shipments, price gauging, and respirator masks with faulty testing and filtration.

While PA dental practices have fully reopened, dentistry represents a ‘new reality,’ said Dr. Tauberg.  Patient volume is down due to social distancing and disinfection time required between appointments, he said. This creates “a mathematical problem” of reconciling added costs with fewer patients and pre-COVID-19 reimbursement.

However, creating a safe environment for patients remains his—and PDA’s—primary goal, one Mobile Health has helped them to achieve. “With all the PPE we’re wearing, we’re really doing everything you would do in a hospital environment,” he concluded.

RFTs for Hospital Vendors and Small Businesses

Mobile Health also provides RFTs for healthcare workers, hospital vendors, including leading medical device and pharmaceutical companies, and others at its seven NY clinics and 3,000+ partner providers nationwide. Additionally, the Mobile Health Fit Kit allows small businesses to fit test their own employees using Mobile Health supplies and support. Want to learn more about the Mobile Health on-site Respirator Fit Testing? Click to learn more:

  • Sara Stein
    Written by:
    Sara Stein

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