Why Face Masks Don’t Work: A Revealing Review

The above quotation is ascribed to Justice Archie Campbell author of Canada’s SARS Commission Final Report. 1 It is a stark reminder that scientific knowledge is constantly changing as new discoveries contradict established beliefs. For at least three decades a face mask has been deemed an essential component of the personal protective equipment worn by dental personnel. A current article, “Face Mask Performance: Are You Protected” gives the impression that masks are capable of providing an acceptable level of protection from airborne pathogens. 2 Studies of recent diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Ebola Crisis combined with those of seasonal influenza and drug resistant tuberculosis have promoted a better understanding of how respiratory diseases are transmitted. Concurrently, with this appreciation, there have been a number of clinical investigations into the efficacy of protective devices such as face masks. This article will describe how the findings of such studies lead to a rethinking of the benefits of wearing a mask during the practice of dentistry. It will begin by describing new concepts relating to infection control especially personal protective equipment (PPE).

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