Dental Students Produce Free Face Shields

Dentistry Today
Photo by Douglas Levere


Photo by Douglas Levere

A team of students at the University at Buffalo (UB) School of Dental Medicine are using 3-D printers to supply UB and western New York dentists with much needed personal protective equipment (PPE) as local practices return to providing oral health care.

Working under the guidance of oral biology assistant professor Praveen Arany, the students are creating free face shields and comfort bands, which are strips of material worn with masks to relieve pain and stress on ears. The reusable face shields are designed to accommodate dental loupes as well.

The students have received more than 120 orders and printed more than 800 comfort bands and more than 150 face shields so far, both of which have clinical designs approved by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said Arany.

The initiative began after Arany’s lab ceased research due to the COVID-19 pandemic. His lab’s 3-D printers previously were used to create and investigate medication-filled 3-D printed dentures, smart fillings, and bone regenerative scaffolds. Instead of letting the equipment sit idle, Arany and more than a dozen students began using the printers to create PPE.

“There appears to be growing concerns about the sustainability of the PPE supply chain. Anticipating this need and our biomaterials research capabilities, our student-led initiative is self-sufficient, sustainable, and customizable,” said Arany, who redirected nearly $7,000 of his lab resources into the project.

“There is also the potential for future student employment, as the project is a fantastic learning and research opportunity for my lab and the dental student volunteers,” said Arany.

At the forefront of the initiative are Philip Sales, a master’s student of biological sciences who conducts research in Arany’s lab, third-year dental student Shaina Chechang, second-year dental student Kierra Bleyle, and UB alum Eric Niles.

“Dentistry is always evolving and improving its technology and demands a lot of critical thinking,” said Chechang, who was motivated to help healthcare workers during the pandemic.

“This opportunity has allowed me to broaden my horizons and continue learning about innovative advances when it comes to problem solving,” said Chechang.

“A box of masks before the pandemic was less than $10, and a few weeks ago it was $53. It’s shocking, but, unfortunately, that’s the reality of it. The idea of 3-D printing PPE is a great way to solve the shortage,” she said.

Sales would sometimes work until 2 am, helping to produce up to 60 face shields per week. Each shield, he said, takes 90 minutes to make.

Operating out of Foster Hall on South Campus, Sales used free design software and models from the NIH 3-D depository to create the face shields and modified the design to specifically accommodate the needs of dentists.

“The Buffalo community has been so good to me. I put in all of these hours to give back and help the community,” said Sales, who moved from Chicago to Buffalo in 2019 to begin his graduate studies.

“This has also allowed me to channel my passion for making things. I took my knowledge of graphic design and scale modeling and came up with a way to help the community, especially the highest at-risk dental personnel,” said Sales, who aims to become a dentist.

Key contributions also came from Jaewon Kim, a periodontics resident, and third-year dental student Jacob Graca, both of whom focus their research on 3-D printing for clinical dentistry.

“The COVID pandemic has raised serious concerns in our dental profession on patient and operator safety. We were thrilled to see our 3-D printing research is assisting our profession with these PPEs in such a timely manner,” said Kim.

Most orders came from local dentists, UB researchers and clinical scientists, and School of Dental Medicine alumni. The project has received several requests from out of state clinics as well. To learn more about the project, order free materials, or make donations to support the initiative, visit

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