What is PPE and why is it so important?

What does PPE stand for and why is it so important? Personal Protective Equipment

PPE is a commonly used abbreviation in the health and dental industry which stand for Personal Protective Equipment. PPE is used to protect the person’s airways, eyes, skin from any infectious agents. Our rules and protocols at Chinchilla Dental Practice on PPE are of the highest standard adapted from the Australian Dental Association of Queensland (ADAQ). The personal protective equipment used in dental procedures are masks, glasses, gloves and even our clothing plays a part but it’s not just wearing all of this that is important it’s the order in which we apply it.

First comes the mask

Our first line of protection is a mask; they are put on first so we can fit them to our face and completely cover our nose, mouth, chin and upper neck. They are fluid-resistant and are used in procedures if there is a potential for splashing, splattering or spraying of saliva, blood or body substances with the possibility of inhalation. Masks are worn as there is a number of diseases that can be transmitted via airborne. Once the procedure is complete we remove and dispose of our masks.

Glasses next

Glasses are worn in procedures to protect the mucous membrane of the eye where there is a potential for injury and exposure to aerosols. They are put on second to fit over the mask. It’s also important that patients wear tinted glasses as they protect the eyes from the glare of the operating light but also to minimise the risk of possible injury from materials or chemicals during treatment. The glasses we use are disposable and are thrown after procedures with aerosols, otherwise wiped over with our sterilizing wipes and cleaned after use.

Gloves, but first hand hygiene!

Gloves are put on last but before putting on our gloves we perform hand hygiene by applying an Alcohol Based Hand Rub (ABHR) which after 15-20 seconds of rubbing our hands are dry. See Hand Hygiene Australia for the recommended procedure that we follow. Gloves are used in all areas of our practice. In our treatment rooms we use them to reduce the risk of exposure to saliva, blood and other body secretions. The gloves we have are Nitrile gloves which are powder and latex free. Using this type of glove is best for patients who have latex allergies.

After every patient we dispose of our gloves, perform hand hygiene before touching other parts of the environment as this avoids transfer of micro-organisms. If the gloves become damaged due to being cut, torn or punctured during a procedure we immediately remove, perform hand hygiene and reapply gloves. Gloves are also used between patients to change over the treatment rooms and also in our sterilization room. However, in our sterilization room we use a thicker glove that reduces the risk of punctures and abrasions to our gloves when cleaning sharp instruments.

Clothing also plays a role

Dental assistants uniforms consists of a navy wrap tunic which is worn in all clinical treatments and in our sterilizing room. We remove our tunic when leaving the clinic, eating or taking breaks. The dentists also wear a tunic in which they follow the same protocols. The shoes we wear are enclosed to protect our feet from injury or contact with sharp objects.

Why we wear what we wear!

At the end of the day, PPE is important not just to protect us but our patients. So when you come in for your dental work, now you will know why we wear what we wear.


Putting on PPE Removing PPE
1.       Mask 1.       Gloves
Worn first to cover the nose, mouth, chin and upper neck. Removed first as these are the most contaminated after a procedure.  Perform hand hygiene.
2.       Glasses 2.       Glasses
Second to be fitted over the mask. As they go over the mask these are the next to be removed from the side of the glasses.
3.       Gloves 3.       Mask
Gloves put on last after performing hand hygiene. Then last we remove our mask from around the ear or head and perform hand hygiene.


A blog by Tamara Butler

Dental assistant