The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published a blog article last week that effectively describes the difference between respiratory protection and source control for limiting the spread of COVID-19. The difference is this: respiratory protection protects you from getting the disease, while source control prevents you from spreading the disease.
As stated in the article, “respiratory protection protects the wearer”. When dental healthcare personnel (DHCP) don PPE, including N95 masks, to prevent exposure to hazardous agents, it is to prevent the hazardous agent from getting to the DHCP. In this case, donning tight-fitting air-purifying respirators prevents the potentially contaminated air from being inhaled by the DHCP. When worn properly, respirators are designed to help protect the DHCP by passing most of the air through the filter. N95 respirators filter at least 95% of particles of all sizes from inhaled air.
Source control by wearing facemasks, on the other hand, “protects others” by capturing most of the exhalation breathe from asymptomatic/presymptomatic individuals. This prevents most of the COVID-19 contamination from entering the air. Masks are recommended as a barrier to help prevent large respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice.
The article goes on to summarize the best way for the general public protect prevent exposure to COVID-19: stay home if you have been exposed or are sick, stay at least 6 feet apart from others, and practice hand hygiene in order to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases.
Since 1992, OSHA Review, Inc. has provided dental professionals with comprehensive programs to support regulatory compliance and infection control. We are a registered continuing education provider in the state of California, specializing in Dental Practice Act, infection control, and OSHA training.