A surgical face mask, also called a facial mask, is designed to be worn by healthcare professionals during certain medical procedures to inhibit airborne transmission of diseases in medical patients and those treating them. Surgeons perform face surgeries and facial treatments daily. Their protective masks, often called masks, keep them from breathing in particles and other matter that could be harmful to them when in surgery. The use of surgical masks has been around for many years but some healthcare workers still question whether they are necessary or useful.
Masks used in surgery have been proven to reduce the risk of bacterial infection in the patient’s mouth and throat by almost 60%. While most surgical masks use a form of latex or vinyl, disposable plastic surgical masks are available for use in the operating room or patient room. These disposable plastic face masks can be washed in lukewarm water and dried before use. Disposable face masks usually contain disinfectants such as chlorine dioxide and can prevent bacteria from thriving in dark and moist areas.
Because the nose is the primary breathing route after an oral surgery, healthcare workers who wear a surgical face mask have the greatest chance of breathing in their own aerosol, which can be risky if the mask is not properly cleaned. Healthcare workers should ensure that the nasal mask they wear is frequently cleaned in hot sudsy water. After each use, a small amount of the cleanser should be rubbed into the mask to remove any residual cleanser and then replaced. Some doctors recommend that patients wear a nose patch that contains the same cleanser and should be worn during the entire surgical period. If this is not feasible, healthcare workers should ensure that they wash their hands thoroughly before touching any part of the patient’s body.
Many argue that wearing a face mask reduces the amount of social distancing experienced by healthcare workers because they cannot clearly see the face of the patient next to them. While clearly seeing the face of a patient can reduce some social distancing, many healthcare workers also find the masks attractive and find the distraction of the clean white appearance of the mask very comforting. Discomfort is also common when the wearer is unable to fully cover their nose. Because some practitioners prefer a clean, white mask over a dirty or stained one, some patients may feel uncomfortable showing off or hiding their bad health. A patient who is unable to cover their nose might be stared at or feel the need to cover their head with their arms, something that creates discomfort for everyone present.
Although the purpose of a face mask is to protect healthcare workers from their own contamination and disease-causing germs, a few argue that it should not be a barrier against enjoying music, watching TV, reading, or surfing the internet. For these individuals, a simple solution would be to wear a pair of prescription sunglasses, or a pair of disposable lenses. Another individual points out that while eye protection is critical for all occupations, it is especially important for those involved with infectious diseases, as the contamination can be airborne and unpleasant to the touch. Finally, other individuals argue that if the government wants to ban these protective garments, then why not allow them to protect from all diseases, rather than just the obvious?
Face masks have been used for millennia, and are still a common tool in the home, hospital, and nursing home. Although commonly associated with death and danger, the use of face masks has many benefits as well. These include the reduction of infection and contagious diseases, reduction of glare on eyes from bright fluorescent lights, and prevention of exposure to airborne pathogens. In the current age of information and technology, however, the trend is moving toward “wear around others” and “face mask-free” techniques. For these reasons, and because of the significant costs of having a professional decontamination installed, it is likely that the face mask will become less of a necessary expense and more of an elective.