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Finding PPE for Dental Practices

Dental offices around the United States are learning how to care for patients in the age of COVID-19. Safety remains the priority as states begin to allow practices to treat patients again, but it may be a challenge to get the necessary personal protection equipment (PPE).

Scott Drucker, DMD, is a periodontist and co-founder of Chicago-based dental supply company Supply Clinic. He told Patient Prism CEO Amol Nirgudkar that it could be a while before the availability of PPE returns to anything resembling normal. Demand still far outweighs supply.

“We're trying to make everything available that we possibly can and adding as products run out,” Dr. Drucker said. “What is most important for dental practices is just getting the proper protective equipment to be able to see their patients. I foresee a few months more of challenge procuring some of these products.”

Download Patient Prism's guide: Staying Safe in the Dental Practice

The PPE Supply Chain Broke

Masks remain the most elusive type of equipment, Dr. Drucker said.

“The supply chain, in general, was most broken with masks,” he said. “And it continues to be.”

Dr. Drucker said the issue has been complicated because of inconsistent guidelines from the CDC, the FDA and the ADA. In general, N95 masks are considered the standard for healthcare workers.

One problem, according to Dr. Drucker, is that a main U-S manufacturer of N95 masks, 3M, has had much of its supply funneled to government agencies. This has created a bottleneck for DSOs and private dentists.

“N95s are extremely difficult to source right now,” Dr. Drucker said. “3M is shipping everything to hospitals and to governments, per FEMA’s directive. So, those aren't on the market. There are some foreign-manufactured N95s that do come in little spurts, and we try to get those on the site (for order) when possible.”

It’s not just a mask shortage. PPE is now being used by everyone in the office, including reception staff, and the increase demand has contributed to prices spiking by about 400%. For example, a box of 100 nitrile gloves cost between $5 and $6 in February, before the pandemic reached the U.S. in large numbers.

Now, that same box costs between $15 and $25.

A box of 50 surgical masks jumped in price from $4 - $6 to anywhere from $30 - $50, Dr. Drucker said.

Another issue Dr. Drucker has seen is order maximums. Because of the shortages, manufacturers are limiting the number of cases or boxes organizations can order. In addition, manufacturers are facing workflow issues because they have been working with smaller factory crews because of social distancing and illness.

And delivery services have begun policies of only attempting delivery one time. If an office is closed and no one is available to sign for the delivery, the order is being returned to the sender.

PPE Procurement Recommendations

Dr. Drucker cautioned against taking procurement shortcuts by purchasing from potentially disreputable suppliers. Counterfeit PPE has begun to surge across the country. One way to combat the possibility of getting faulty equipment is to build a reliable network of suppliers – even if you already have one supplier who you know and trust.

Another reason to build a trusted network of suppliers is that many have initiated maximum order numbers for products to combat hoarding and to guard against selling out too quickly.

“Now, I think, is the first time a number of practitioners have seen maximum quantity restrictions,” Dr. Drucker said. “This is extremely common practice now across the board for distributors. And part of the reason for my recommendation to kind of expand out your network of sellers are max quantities.”

The bottom line, Dr. Drucker said, is to keep your options open when it comes to acquiring PPE.

“Check out every option available,” he said. “Purchase where you can, because the supply chain is going to be inconsistent  and lead times are way longer than dentists are used to seeing.”

Additional Resources

Guide: Staying Safe in the Dental Practice: Guidance on everything from what the CDC recommends to how to acquire PPE to whether you should pass along the cost to patients.

Guide: Comeback Strategies for Dental Practices

Dental Marketing Guide: What to do Right Now

For more interviews with experts, training resources, and guides, visit Academy.PatientPrism.com.

There will be a huge need for dentistry once people can resume normal activities. More people than ever will have questions about safety, affordable treatment options, and what’s covered by their insurance plans post-COVID. Visit PatientPrism.com/Overview to find out how we can help your team convert more callers into booked appointments.

About this Industry Leader:

Scott Mortier - Profile Pic

Scott Drucker, DMD, MS

President, Supply Clinic

Dr. Scott Drucker attended the University of Pennsylvania for both his bachelor’s degree in Biology and his DMD degree. He then completed his residency in Periodontics with a Master of Science in Oral Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2016. 

In the summer of 2014, he co-founded Supply Clinic, the online marketplace for dental supplies. As an entrepreneurial clinician, Dr. Drucker has a keen interest in improving the transparency and efficiency of the dental supply market, and optimizing operational workflow in the clinical realm. 

Dr. Drucker has also authored several peer-reviewed journal articles in collaboration with the Periodontics department at the University of Pennsylvania, and with the Oral Medicine department at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. He is currently a member of the American Dental Association, Illinois State Dental Society, Chicago Dental Society, American Academy of Periodontics, and Academy of Osseointegration. He continues to perform periodontal and oral rehabilitation surgeries on a limited basis. 

Dr. Drucker has been featured in a number of dental industry podcasts and publications, and was selected as one of Crain’s 20 in their 20s in 2018. 

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