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PPE Supply Insight from OSAP and DTA

On August 16, the Organization for Safety, Asepsis, and Prevention (OSAP) hosted a small panel of industry representatives who shared their perspectives on current and expected trends in the supply and costs of certain types of personal protective equipment (PPE) – N95 and other respirators, L1 to L3 surgical masks, reusable and disposable gowns, and surgical gloves – for the dental office.

Per the representatives’ insight, the supply of N95 masks globally will stabilize with increased manufacture, but supply for U.S. dentistry is expected to be a continued challenge due to requirements on domestic product distribution under the Defense Protection Act and by FEMA. A representative of 3M noted that, while KN95s can be a viable alternative, the quality of KN95s entering the U.S. has been erratic; however, 3M has established protocols to ensure that its KN95 masks meet NIOSH requirements. Moreover, the representative noted efforts to ensure continued pricing stability of respirators.

On the other hand, panelists expect prices of surgical masks to remain high. While supply issues with L3 masks are expected to be resolved within the next month or two, challenges remain with distribution to domestic dentists, include stockpiling of masks by the U.S. federal government and governmental issues between U.S. and China.

Meanwhile, the demand for gowns peaked upon the return of dentists to full practice. One company conveyed that the supply shortage is driven in-part by China’s re-assignment of gown factories to make masks; 65% of SMS material, used in the manufacture of gowns, is developed in China. While supply and delivery are expected to improve in Q4 of 2020, prices are expected to remain at the current high prices, through the end of 2020. A panelist indicated that practitioners may wish to launder reusable gowns to mitigate the use of disposable gowns in order to stretch their supplies through year’s end.

Meanwhile, the surgical glove industry experienced its greatest surge in demand upon the implementation of universal precautions in 1989, when the U.S. healthcare market grew from 15 billion/yr to 70 billion/yr. COVID19 has increased that market from 70 billion to 100 billion/yr. The demand in dentistry has grown from 6 billion/yr pre-COVID to 10.2 billion/yr today. Notably, international demand has grown more than U.S. demand, since some countries had not implemented the use of gloves as a universal precaution until the advent of COVID19. One representative indicated an expectation that supply and prices may take three to four years to normalize, but also cautioned against stockpiling. In the meantime, participants were cautioned to expect prices on gloves to continue to increase, but also for practitioners to be wary of price gauging.

Additionally, we wanted to ensure that our members are aware that the Dental Trade Alliance (DTA) has recently published its assessment of supply and demand of PPE, provided for your information.

The AAE will continue to work with other organizations to advocate for endodontists to be prioritized for access to respirators and other PPE for the practice of endodontics.