Vilseck Army Dental Clinic Taps HEPA Filters for Infection Control

Dentistry Today
Photo by Maj. Katherine Darling-Lund


Photo by Maj. Katherine Darling-Lund

The Vilseck Army Dental Clinic in Vilseck, Germany, has assembled and installed 25 portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters for each of its dental treatment rooms.

Working together as a team, the Army said, the clinic staff quickly assembled the HEPA filters, with one filter placed near each dental treatment chair, to provide an additional layer of protection against COVID-19.

“The teamwork demonstrated by the entire clinic staff allowed us to complete assembly, and put into use, 25 HEPA filters in a little over two hours,” said Maj. (Dr.) Kathrine Darling-Lund, officer in charge of the Vilseck Army Dental Clinic.

“The HEPA filtration units are portable and can be transported to other areas of the clinic as needed,” said Darling-Lund.

As a result of the COVID-19 epidemic, the Army said, its dental clinics in Europe are taking extra precautions and steps to ensure the safety of their beneficiaries and staffs.

“All Army dental clinics in Europe are being outfitted with HEPA filtration units, essentially one unit per treatment room,” said Col. (Dr.) Manuel Pozo-Alonso, commander of Dental Health Command Europe.

“As a result, we are getting very positive feedback from patients and staff alike,” Pozo-Alonso continued.

“Additionally, we are finalizing the construction of six Expeditionary Dental Airborne Infectious Isolation Rooms across the region to be able to treat COVID-19 positive patients under negative pressure if the need arises,” Pozo-Alonso said.

According to industrial hygiene experts, the Army said, HEPA filters can trap a minimum of 99.97% of submicron airborne particulates down to a 0.3-µm particle size.

“The HEPA filtration units installed in the clinics are able to trap not only fine dust, allergens, and mold, they also capture bacteria and viruses, effectively sanitizing the air,” said Darling-Lund.

“Standard air filter range from coarse to medium air filters and, like HEPA filters, they use electrostatic filters to capture electrically charged particles that attach themselves to the filter plates,” said Darling-Lund.

“However, standard air filters are not efficient enough to trap fine dusts, bacteria, and viruses like the HEPA filter and will not provide air sanitization,” said Darling-Lund.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dental settings have unique characteristics that warrant specific infection control considerations.

“HEPA filtration units, as recommended by the CDC, are a reasonable measure to augment dental treatment facilities’ HVAC systems,” said Pozo-Alonso. “They help remove aerosols and fine particulates during aerosol-producing dental procedures.”

In addition to installing HEPA filtration systems, the Vilseck Army Dental Clinic is taking extra precautions to ensure patient safety, according to the Army.

“Our additional safety precautions begin with patient temperature checks and questionnaire screenings as they enter the clinic. Also, our clinic staff have all been fitted with multiple types of N95 masks to be used during all aerosol-generating procedures,” said Darling-Lund.

“Additional personal protective equipment is worn by our staff to include face shields, hair coverings, and show coverings in addition to eyewear, gowns, and gloves,” said Darling-Lund.

“We also installed plastic shields that are used to cover dental equipment, and we alternate using every other treatment room so that a safe distance is maintained between aerosol-generating procedures,” said Darling-Lund. 

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