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Personal Protective Equipment

Course Number: 483


Pathogens in blood and other potentially infectious material (OPIM) may contaminate skin and conjunctival, nasal, and oral mucosal tissues by direct or indirect contact transmission; and the respiratory epithelium by inhalation of airborne microorganisms in droplets or droplet nuclei suspended in air. To prevent or reduce the risk of disease transmission, the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) is mandated by Standard and Transmission-Based Precautions.1,2,3

Standard Precautions represent the minimum standard required, regardless of the suspected or confirmed infection status of the patient, in healthcare delivery. Transmission-Based Precautions represent additional measures to be taken when Standard Precautions alone cannot prevent disease (e.g. tuberculosis, SARS-CoV-2)3,5 transmission through contact, droplet or airborne routes (e.g., skin contact, sneezing, coughing).

PPE are medical devices designed to protect healthcare personnel from acquiring healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). In oral healthcare settings PPE include surgical gowns, surgical masks, respirators, goggles, face shields, and gloves.2 The following sections highlight regulatory issues, uses and methods of selecting PPE, and a hierarchical strategy for putting on and removing PPE that will prevent skin, mucosal, clothing, and environmental contamination.