The difference between N95 mask “extended use” and “reuse”

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, healthcare workers continue to see a shortage in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). These difficulties have led to dental offices considering the extension of use for certain PPE, the most significant item being N95 masks. In order to educate offices on the appropriate way to extend the use of these masks, we’ve pulled the most important information from the American Dental Association (ADA).

The ADA defines “Extended use” and “Reuse” as follows:

  • Extended use refers to continuous wear of the same N95 respirator, without removal between patients, when working on multiple patients.
  • Reuse refers to wearing the same N95 mask, with removal between patients for a maximum of five donnings, when working on multiple patients.

While using either of these methods there are a few essential variables to keep in mind. Discard any mask that may have been contaminated by a patient, come in close contact with someone displaying symptoms of COVID-19, and any mask that is damaged or difficult to breathe through. You should also conduct a user seal check after each donning and perform hand hygiene whenever touching the mask. Another helpful, although not necessary, tip would be to use a face shield over the N95 mask.

If you intend to reuse a N95 mask, the ADA states that these additional steps should be applied. Since this option involves taking the mask off and using it again later, it is vital that the user of the mask is clearly identified. Masks should be hung in a designated area between uses and stored in a manner where they are not touching one another whatsoever. The CDC recommends storing them for a minimum of five days before reuse occurs. Clean, non-sterile gloves should be worn when putting on a N95 mask and if the inside of the mask is touched it should be discarded immediately.

Understanding the difference between extended use and reuse, will reduce the negative effects of PPE shortages. Both of these techniques can be incorporated into offices to help fight against the spread of COVID-19. It is very important to adapt to these changes in order to protect all employees and patients that are potentially being exposed.

For more information on this topic, view the ADA form linked below on Extending the Use of N95 Masks. To purchase N95 masks from Dental City call 1-800-353-9595.

ADA Extending the Use of N95 Masks