Biosafety, Blog, COVID19 Dental Care

As Auckland begins mandatory face mask wearing on public transport, Dr Andrea Shepperson wanted to share a few tips to help those who’ve never worn a mask.

I’ve spent the last 34 years as a dentist wearing a mask to protect against aerosols and droplets from patient mouths.  It’s something we are very comfortable in, and we wouldn’t work without a mask.


New To Masks?

If you’ve never worn a face mask, it can be a bit disconcerting at first.  Some of the challenges people describe are glasses fogging, feeling like you can’t breathe, wanting to hyper-ventilate and having to adjust the mask constantly.

How to Wear a Face Mask

Take a look at our team photos.  We are all wearing our masks high on our faces, covering noses.  We also wear a mask with a metal strip which is molded to our noses and cheeks.  Glasses can sit over the top which helps with fogging.  I’m wearing industrial safety glasses which have an anti-fog coating.

If your glasses are fogging, run them under warm water to warm up the lenses. Soapy water helps too – just some good old dishwashing liquid. You can buy anti-fog spray from opticians and pharmacies.

Which Way Is Up?

It’s easy to be confused if you’ve never worn a surgical mask. If there’s a single metal strip it goes at the top, over the nose.  The colour (usually blue) goes on the outside.

Home-made Fabric Masks

Congratulations to all the sewers out there who are making some great fabric masks.  These need to be a tight weave fabric and they have been found to work well to stop droplet emission in some studies.

If you have a homemade fabric mask it might not fit so well over your nose and won’t have the metal strip. If you move it high up on your face and sit the glasses over the top, that should work. There is good clinical evidence to show a stretchy or loose weave fabric neck scarf/buff doesn’t work well. It fits too tightly over your face, the fabric weave is not tight enough to block droplets properly and droplets pass through the fabric more easily.

If you need to work in your glasses, and it’s unsafe to have them fogging up, tape the top of the mask down.

If the mask doesn’t have pleats and is stretched tightly over your face, you might feel you can’t breathe. So allow a bit of space in your design if making the fabric one. Just make sure the top, bottom and sides fit well as you see in the photo below.


Face Mask Hygiene Tips:

  1. Put it on after washing your hands well, get it comfy and leave it alone. Constantly adjusting a mask simply spreads bugs around on your hands.
  2. To remove it, use the ear loops. Flip off one side for a drink and hook back up with the ear loop if you’re just wanting a temporary break.
  3. Don’t take it off and put it down onto surfaces that others might use. It’s contaminated with droplets and aerosol so shouldn’t just go in a handbag either. Put it in a plastic bag, like a ziplock, if you plan to reuse it.
  4. Fabric masks can have a hot wash in soapy water. A dash of bleach will also help to kill any viruses.
  5. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water after removing it. I like regular dishwashing liquid.
  6. Good hand hygiene goes with mask wearing to stop the spread of COVID-19.  I’ll try not to touch anything on the walk to my office, will do the lift button with my elbow, and will wash my hands on arrival before I join my team.

Have a great first week – it gets easier and hopefully we can contain this outbreak with collective action.