The West Virginia University (WVU) School of Dentistry and Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources Innovation Hub have developed a face shield for dental care providers that will work while they are wearing loupes with headlamps.
“The Statler Innovation Hub has come through with a design to fit the needs of our providers,” said Tammy Chipps, DDS, assistant professor and chair of the dental school’s infection prevention and control committee.
“Helping supply us with these facial shields allows us the resources to meet personal protective equipment guidelines and keep our providers safe without impeding their vision by enabling use of the shields with their dental loupes and loupe lights,” Chips said.
Engineers used loupes from four different manufacturers to develop the face shield to help protect both the patient and provider from the spread of COVID-19.
“The WVU Statler Innovation Hub is delighted to continue to help our dental professionals prepare handling patient needs as the state reopens,” said professor and dean emeritus Eugene Cilento, MS, PhD.
“This need came about during meeting discussions, and Dr. Fotinos Panagakos, dental school vice dean, came to us to help modify the design of face shields for use with dental equipment,” said Cilento.
“My role as Hub director is small. All the credit for the solution and quick turnaround goes to our Hub managers, Josh Bintrim and Kelsey Crawford,” he said.
Third-year dental students were part of the process.
“Behind the scenes, our COVID-19 task force has been working really hard to help us return to school in a safe and timely manner,” said DDS candidate Maya Mathai.
“One day we loaned an engineering team our loupes so that they could construct a high-quality, customized face shield to fit over them. The next day, we got to try them on,” said Mathai.
Mathai and classmate Paru Gopalan tested the face shields for effectiveness and fit.
“This face shield will be provided to each student to ensure their safety when doing aerosolizing procedures. We cannot thank our task force enough for all the time and effort they are putting into ensuring the safety of us and our patients,” said Mathai.
Dental school administrators are preparing plans for a return to some normalcy in simulation lab work and patient care clinics.
Part of preparedness in the wake of the pandemic, which has shut down dental offices and schools around the world, is equipping providers, faculty, students, and staff with as many safeguards as possible prior to resuming interactions with patients, WVU said.
According to the school, the West Virginia Dental Association has expressed concerns that more than 700 dentists, along with their staffs, will potentially return to work soon and that necessary supplies such as personal protective equipment (PPE) could be limited.
With PPE shortages that date back to January when the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, and with a potential return to work date lingering, fear of shortages is valid, WVU said.
There also is a heightened sense of urgency to obtain the equipment, WVU added. At the School of Dentistry, acquiring a face shield for each student, faculty member, and staff member who needs it prior to comprehensive patient care has been checked off a lengthy to-do list.
“We are ecstatic that these innovators are able to design and provide these for the School of Dentistry,” Chipps said. “This is another wonderful example of Mountaineer spirit, which embraces collaboration and helping each other!”