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Dentists in France stop work over mask shortage

21 March 2020

Some dentists have refused to work as they cannot get masks and other equipment to help protect them.

They say working on people’s mouths with high-speed drills means they are directly exposed to the coronavirus with “projections” of saliva, bits of tooth and the virus.

As some non-urgent hospital surgery and appointments have been cancelled to cope with the surge of coronavirus patients, the dentists say they do not have the high-protection FFP2 masks that are needed.

In Nice, the leading union Chirurgiens Dentistes de France has told dentists not to offer general care without proper protection for themselves, their staff and patients.

They say that they face an “invisible danger”.

In Dordogne, more than 250 dentists have refused to work on non-urgent cases, and the Conseil National de l’Ordre des Chirurgiens Dentistes has supported them, while asking them to continue to take urgent work.

Hospitals are calling patients to cancel their elective surgery.

Some, some such as Yves Le Foll, in Saint-Brieuc, Côtes-d’Armor, have gone further and also cancelled visits to patients.

Many GPs and specialists have cancelled non-urgent appointments to be able to handle calls from patients with symptoms of coronavirus infection.

But they, too, are angry at a shortage of proper protective masks, especially in Grand Est, which has been heaviest hit by the pandemic.

One told France 3 TV that he was given a single box of masks, containing five, when he sees 30 patients a day, most of them with the virus.

In Nantes, the newspaper Ouest France said one GP had used her dressmaking skills to make her own masks with a waterproof side and a cotton side – although they offer little real protection.

Grenoble Alpes hospital has had a similar idea but it has no shortage of FFP2 masks and its homemade masks are not for use by doctors or staff in direct contact with virus patients.

The hospital has put its pattern online for people to make their own. They need about 20cm of cotton, fine felt or fleece material, and elastic.

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