PPE classification

PPE classification in dental practices

The protection of medical staff

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) refers to equipment, clothing and accessories to protect medical staff from potential health and safety hazards in working environments.
The use and characteristics of this equipment are clearly mentioned in Italian Legislative Decree 81/2008 (in the guidelines for sterilization and protection for medical staff from biological agents), as well as in Directive 89/656/EEC regarding employers’ obligations and 89/686/EEC for manufacturers’ obligations.

PPE requirements and classification

In order to comply with the law, PPE in a dental practice must meet the following key requirements:

– It must have CE marking and the necessary certification.
– It must have an instruction book in Italian.
– Suitable PPE must be used to minimize or eliminate occupational hazards.
– The PPE must be ergonomic and cater to the health and safety requirements of staff.

PPE is divided into three categories by Italian Legislative Decree 475/1992:
– PPE that offers protection from moderate physical hazards and is designed to prevent collisions, contact with sources of heat no higher than 50°C, radiation and vibrations.
– PPE that offers protection from severe harm that can cause death and is designed to prevent inhalation of dangerous substances, accidental falls, contact with sources of heat no higher than 100°C and electric shocks.
– PPE that offers protection from all other hazards.

PPE used in dental practices

The PPE in a dental practice is almost exclusively used during sterilization processes. It is as follows:

– Cut-proof gloves.
– Face masks to protect the mouth and nose.
– Waterproof gowns.
– Protective glasses.

The cut-proof gloves must be made from a material capable of withstanding mechanical stress and tearing. They often have a cotton or Kevlar covering and additional reinforcement made of metal or special alloys.
In dental practices, it is very common for gloves made of aramid fibres to be used because they are extremely resistant not only to cuts but also to heat and wear and tear.

The protective face masks for the mouth and nose are used to prevent potentially infected biological or chemical substances from being inhaled. They cover both the mouth and the nose to prevent inhalation through either.

Waterproof gowns are made from special fabrics that repel water and various kinds of liquids. They can withstand contact with corrosive liquid chemicals. However, the waterproof gowns mostly tend to be used to protect the body from biological liquids.

To prevent biological or chemical materials from accidentally coming into contact with the delicate structure of the eyes, during the sterilization of dental instruments and materials, protective glasses with mask-style or side protection are used. They protect the eyes by wrapping around the face.

The PPE selection in a dental practice also includes all of the equipment needed to protect dentists during a dental appointment: disposable sterile gloves, masks, protective glasses (for when a dental drill is used) and disposable gowns.

PPE protects and prevents harm to dentists and medical staff, but appropriate use and regular maintenance (when necessary) also preserves the health and safety of patients by preventing the spread of infectious diseases.