Dentist warns against masks with valves

Benita Zahn
Created: June 26, 2020 06:03 PM

If you're finding your mask uncomfortable in the hot weather, you may be tempted to get one with a valve.

The masks with valves are meant for people who work in dirty, dusty environments. They prevent you from breathing in that stuff, but let you breathe out easily. 

That's where the trouble is, explains a local dentist who did some digging when his national association sent them out.

“What concerned me is the American Dental Association sent all these out. And what they said is, these were all given to them from FEMA, and they were good for emergency,” said Dr. Larry Kotlow. “I find that unacceptable.”

Kotlow says that's because, while the person who wears the mask is protected, that mask doesn't protect those around you.

“And you sneezed, everything you sneezed or coughed would be all over me,” he said.

Including the coronavirus if you are infected. The valve closes when you breathe in but opens when you breathe out.

The American Dental Association says the masks were sent with temporary approval by the FDA for emergency use and should be combined with a face shield.

But as Kotlow points out, the public doesn't know to add the extra layer of protection.

His concerns got him a form letter from the ADA.

He understands why the valve masks are appealing.

“I can expel all that CO2 and I'm not quite as tired and fatigued as I normally would be,” he said.

These masks also won't fog up your glasses.

But in the end they don't protect those around you. In fact, the CDC advises against them "because the exhalation valve allows unfiltered exhaled air to escape into the sterile field.”

“If you've gone out and spent money for a valve mask, throw it in the garbage,” Kotlow said.

Kathleen Moore, the executive director of the Third Dental District, which covers the Capital Region, says she's heard this concern from other dentists.

“The Third District contacted the six counties in our area and some of our members were able to receive N95's and other PPE from the county emergency managers,” she said in a statement.

The N95's they got did not have valves.

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