Eta Products, which produces dental masks that provide additional eye protection, has donated its entire 20,000-piece inventory to frontline workers in Boston.
Almost 10 years ago, dentist and plastics engineer Peter Arsenault, DMD, teamed up with friend and former engineering mentor Amad Tayebi to develop a surgical mask for dentists that would protect their eye from flying debris. Three years ago, they launched Eta Products to produce these masks.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the company began receiving offers from middlemen looking to buy the masks at a significant markup and then resell them at even higher prices.
But then a neighbor approached Arsenault, who also is a professor and head of operative dentistry at the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, if he had any masks from his private practice that he could spare. The neighbor said his wife and her coworkers, nurses at a Boston hospital, were resorting to bandanas and handkerchiefs for facial protection.
“There were people out there who were really in trouble,” said Arsenault, who then approached his business partners. “We decided our refrigerators are full. We’re healthy. We’re with our families. We’re blessed. Let’s do something that matters.”
The company shipped its stock of 20,000 masks from its Dallas warehouse to Arsenault’s home in Massachusetts. He and his sons then delivered the masks to the Tufts School of Dental Medicine, the Tufts Medical Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Tayebi and Arsenault designed the Eta surgical dental mask with shielding to eliminate the hazard of the “bottom gap,” or the exposed area between the top of a conventional dental mask and the bottom edge of dental eyewear. Pieces of metal, broken burs, pumice, and other debris generated by dental procedures can enter the bottom gap and cause eye injuries.
While doctors and nurses treating COVID-19 patients may not face flying debris to the same degree, the Eta masks do provide increased protection from aerosols that might carry the virus, Arsenault said.
The ride home after the delivery with his sons was mostly silent, Arsenault said.
“We were quietly reflecting. Then one of them said, ‘Dad, that was such an awesome thing we just did.’ And in that moment, the gravity of what was going on really hit me,” Arsenault said. “The life lesson for my children was more valuable than any income those masks could have produced.”