College of Dentistry Using 3D Printers to Make Masks

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The UTHSC College of Dentistry has successfully created highly effective biologic filtration masks using a 3D printer used by the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

The UTHSC College of Dentistry has successfully created highly effective biologic filtration masks using a 3D printer used by the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

“We were having difficulty obtaining the proper PPE (personal protective equipment) N95 mask,” said Jeffrey Brooks, DMD, executive associate dean and associate dean of clinical affairs for the UTHSC College of Dentistry. “The Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery decided to get creative and to fabricate a mask that would allow us to use N95 or similar material to manufacture our own PPE, specifically masks.”

The 3D printers were previously used by the department to print bio-models for maxillofacial trauma and pathology cases to improve reconstruction and surgery outcomes. The 3D printers are able to produce precise and specific models.

The college has been experimenting with several designs to discover which design will allow production of the most masks in the least amount of time. According to Dr. Brooks, the College of Dentistry has decided on a design and have printed over 10 custom masks. With the current design, the base portion of the mask can be used indefinitely, and the mask can be disinfected, and the filter component can be replaced. They are using polyvinyl siloxane (PVS) material to fit the mask to the provider and get an airtight seal to the face. Moda Fabrics of Dallas, TX, donated bands to the college at no cost for use in the masks.

Initial masks produced will be used by College of Dentistry faculty and residents who are maintaining operations of their emergency dental clinic. The Dunn Dental clinic, as well as the UTHSC pediatric dental clinic at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, are providing emergency dental procedures for current patients of the College of Dentistry and the community. In addition, the College of Dentistry’s Oral Pathology Lab, which examines oral specimens, is one of only such labs still open in the region. Intake of emergency dental procedures is allowing patients to go to the College of Dentistry instead of filling up hospital emergency rooms in the city.

“This is a time for us to come together as health care practitioners,” said James C. Ragain, Jr., DDS, dean of the UTHSC College of Dentistry. “Dental emergencies can be not only painful, but life threatening. People still need to have treatment. The reason we are staying open and keeping people out of emergency rooms is it allows the hospital staff to concentrate on those that potentially have COVID-19 so they are not having to treat someone who has an oral abscess or an infection. It’s a team effort to get through this crisis.”

Please visit https://www.uthsc.edu/dentistry/covid19-notice.php for more information on urgent or emergency dental care services.