Securing PPE continues to be priority for dentistry

  • ADA News
Washington — To ensure dental practices have enough personal protective equipment, the ADA is urging two federal agencies to improve access to PPE so that dentists and dental team members can continue to treat patients safely during the pandemic.
In Dec. 16, 2020, letters to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ADA President Daniel J. Klemmedson, D.D.S., M.D., and Executive Director Kathleen T. O’Loughlin, D.M.D., said the Association has “grave concerns regarding the cost, availability, and distribution of personal protective equipment.”

“Dentistry is an essential health care service and dentists and their teams are essential health care workers who need access to PPE in order to stay safe from the coronavirus,” they wrote.

In the letter, Drs. Klemmedson and O’Loughlin highlighted the work of the ADA’s Health Policy Institute, which has been collecting and tracking PPE data on N95/KN95 and surgical masks, face shields, gowns, disinfecting supplies, and gloves since the onset of COVID-19. HPI has found that prices are up “significantly” and said nearly one-third of dentists have reported that prices “have at least tripled.” Surgical masks and gloves have also seen the largest price increases, and four and five-fold price increases are not uncommon, HPI said.

The ADA shared two dental supply companies’ PPE experiences during the pandemic. Benco, a privately owned distributor, told ADA News that PPE prices have been increasing for gloves at unprecedented levels. Benco also said that the company “simply cannot procure enough gloves to meet demand.” Patterson, another major dental supply distributor, indicated that global demand for PPE is at “a level never experienced before.”

For Patterson, “the limited number of manufacturers, raw material requirements, global logistic challenges, and import/export issues are the major factors impacting prices in the marketplace,” wrote Drs. Klemmedson and O’Loughlin.

The ADA said that with larger distributors unable to fill the demand, dentists are increasingly relying on a larger number of distributors for PPE.

Prior to the pandemic, 9% of dental practices said they utilized Amazon for PPE but now some 32% of practices say they have been utilizing the online retailer’s services to stock their practices. Many dentists have also reported using multiple distributors after previously relying on one.

Dentists are finding it moderately to very difficult to purchase gloves in their preferred sizes and material. Third-party brokers have become involved in the distribution process. “This is causing price increases for mainstream distributors and ultimately to the end customer,” Drs. Klemmedson and O’Loughlin wrote.

“As FEMA works with HHS and other partners to ensure limited supplies of critical PPE are available to essential health care workers, the ADA wants to ensure that dental practices are supplied with these important health care products for the safety of our patients and our dental teams,” the letter concluded.

For more information about the ADA’s advocacy efforts during COVID-19, visit ADA.org/COVID19Advocacy.
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