What's in a Mask?

Visitors to dental practices will have been used to seeing dentists and hygienists wearing masks for many years as it has been standard practice for a long time.

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However, with the COVID crisis a spotlight has been shone on the subject of facemasks, face-coverings and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), as people are still considering whether or not it is safe to come in for regular treatment. The subject of what mask to use when can be complicated. What is more, the public are now being required to use face-coverings in certain situations where social distancing may be compromised.

The first thing to say, is that there is a marked difference between a 'face-covering' and a surgical mask. No matter how stylish face coverings are becoming, they are not subject to testing for efficiency whereas a surgical face masks undergo testing against a number of standards so that we know what they can do and where they can be used.

The following is a short description of the commonly used face masks in dental practices and other health care settings.

Type I & Type II/ Type IR & Type IIR Masks

A Type I mask is tested for its bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE) and must reach a standard of 95% to qualify.

The Type II mask must reach an efficiency rate of 98% to qualify.

Both are tested in the direction of exhalation (inside to outside). These masks are used to prevent the wearer infecting the surrounding environment. When the mask has 'R' in the title then it has a splash resistant layer that protects against splashing by blood and other body fluids.


These masks are European quality assured classes of surgical masks. These are tested by inhalation (outside to inside). These masks protect the wearer.

FFP2 have a minimum of 94% filtration percentage

FFP3 have a minimum of 99% filtration percentage and a maximum leakage of 2%. They have a snug fit and a valve to help breathing as the covering is much thicker. These masks are used in the handling of asbestos.

Our hygienists us IIR masks which catch droplets that may carry pathogens as well as pathogens themselves. They also use a visor when working with patients which give additional protection. We are also using air purifiers to reduce airborne transmission this is on top of our already stringent cross-infection practices, to make returning for your regular treatment as safe and assured as possible.


Person wearing a face shield and a surgical mask.... By Pooja Jadhav - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=89557365