Breakdown: Which Level Earloop Masks Should You Wear When?

Face Masks are an essential part of every dental procedure—from caring for the patient to disinfecting the operatory—but with so many mask options in the dental market it can be difficult to choose which ones are best for you and your practice.

When it comes to selecting masks you can choose from a wide range of styles, fits, colors, patterns, etc. However, the most important factor to consider is the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) Level rating of the mask. This rating indicates the level of protection provided by the mask, and all masks are a Level 1, 2 or 3.

We put together a simple breakdown of what each ASTM level of mask means and when you should—or shouldn’t—wear a certain level mask. This way you can ensure you’re protected no matter what type of procedure you’re performing.

  1. Level 1 Masks
    Level 1 is considered “low barrier” and should only be worn during simple procedures, such as exams (not including prophylaxis), taking impressions and x-rays, lab work and orthodontics. Level 1 masks are also great for wearing during disinfecting exam rooms after finishing up with a patient. Essentially, level 1 masks are ideal for anything that will have minimal amounts of fluid, aerosols and splatter.

  2. Level 2 Masks
    Level 2 is considered “moderate barrier” and is typically a safe choice for mid-level procedures like prophylaxis, non-surgical periodontal therapy, sealants, restorations, most endodontic work and simple oral surgery. Use discretion is assessing levels of splatter, fluids and aerosols during a procedure as moderate. It’s always best to err on the side of caution to ensure you’re protected.

  3. Level 3 Masks
    Level 3 is considered “high barrier” and provides the best protection of all ASTM level regulated face masks and is essential during situations where there will be high levels of fluid, aerosol and splatter produced. Procedures that require Level 3 masks include: ultrasonic scaling, air polishing, crown preparations, implant placement, periodontal and complex oral surgery.

Understanding when to wear which level of mask is crucial to ensuring proper protection while treating a patient. And if you’re ever in doubt an easy rule of thumb can be to stick with level 3 masks only, ensuring there’s no guess work when it comes to mask selection.

However, level 3 masks will generally cost slightly more than their lower level counter parts. To keep mask costs down it could be smart to have a few boxes of level one masks on hand for disinfecting and level 2 masks on hand for those procedures you’re confident don’t require “high barrier” protection.

If you ever need a little mask level refresher, bookmark this article or visit our Dental Mask Info Page where we go into detail about the specifications for each ASTM mask level. Then you’ll have a quick way to identify the level of mask you need when you need it.