Updated CDC Guidance: Facemasks, Respirators and Fit Tests

Updated CDC Guidance: Facemasks, Respirators and Fit Tests

As the Covid-19 pandemic has been progressing, health authorities and auditing administrations such as the CDC and OSHA, respectively, have updated their advice for best practice.

This provides dentists the means to practice the most reliable infection control methods, ensuring the strongest safety at all levels.

Standard practices still apply regarding the use of PPE including N95 respirators and protective clothing worn to limit exposure to bodily fluids.

The advice can be substantially summarised below:


ASTM-rated Level 3 face masks can be worn in lieu of N95 respirators if required.

This only includes masks that offer 160 mm Hg rated fluid protection, the best filtration efficacy grading. This should be considered a temporary measure, but a reliable one.

All medical staff must complete a medical questionnaire to determine the suitability of N95 respirator use, in some cases leading to physical assessment given by a medical professional.

This ensures certain conditions such as asthma or prior respiratory problems do not interfere with the compatible use of an N95 mask.

The FDA has updated their list of emergency PPE available if experiencing a shortage of N95 respirators and similarly graded equipment.

This involves PPE that has not been currently tested by NIOSH but that can serve as an acceptable replacement if needing a temporary, emergency protective measure. The full list can be found here. This includes K95 respirators. 

Respirator fit tests are available to be delivered to ensure equipment is being used correctly.

These ‘home kits’ ensure a secure fit  via spraying a nebulizing agent to test if a sweet or bitter taste can be detected through the mask. If the tester cannot detect this taste after performing a range of head motions, the fit is secure.

As per the ever-changing nature of Covid-19, these measures are liable to be updated. Keeping up with necessary guidelines and compliance ensures a better standard of safety for your team.