Dentist invents reusable COVID-19-protecting visor that’s ticking boxes for better patient care

A dentist who invented a new visor specifically designed to help colleagues during the coronavirus outbreak is hoping to begin shipping next month.

Richard Howarth, principal at Smile Style Dental Care Centre in Stafford, created Provizage whilst shielding during lockdown.

He believes his visor is an improvement on the ‘uncomfortable and claustrophobic’ masks currently on the market and says it will ensure dentists can see clearly to treat patients while also offering protection.

Unlike conventional visors, it doesn't attach to the head and is designed to accommodates loupes comfortably.

Richard explained: ‘Many traditional visors are attached to the head via a headband, whilst others in the dental market attach to glasses, increasing their weight – particularly with loupes – and can hurt the top of the nose.

‘When wearing an FFP2 or FFP3 mask, or perhaps a respirator, there is just too much attached to your head to be comfortable. The Provizage visor rests on the wearer’s chest, providing a unique barrier against splashes and splatter. Everyday procedures with handpieces create these, so I wanted to design something that protects the neck and face. I also wanted something that was open at the top. Aerosols are taken care of by the FFP masks, so the visor allows heat to escape. It stops fogging and helps keep the wearer a little cooler and more comfortable while they are working.’

Another important consideration was making sure the design helped to maintain a human interaction with the patient as much as possible, while providing a safe barrier.

Richard said: ‘I have battled all my career to make myself as approachable to patients as I can. I look after many anxious and phobic patients and put myself in the position of a scared patient looking up at me, hoping that what I’m about to do won’t hurt. The last thing we need is to look like Darth Vader, as we pick up our handpieces. Although patients cannot see my mouth, the Provizage, with its wide and high clear screen, lets patients see my eyes and some of my facial expressions. This is an essential part of caring for a patient, particularly if they are nervous.’

For Richard, ‘vision is everything’. He added: ‘If I can see it I can work effectively and efficiently on it. I have always used loupes to ensure I have good posture and they give me an illuminated field of view, which I feel is essential for quality dentistry.

‘As the need for glasses has become common place in my 40s and 50s, I could simply not do my job without my loupes. It would be like cutting off my thumb. The screen portion of the visor is made from very robust material with high optical quality. They use this material in the nuclear industry and it is much higher quality than the materials used in disposable visors or even the screens being erected in shops and supermarkets.

The Provizage visor meets regulatory standards, too. Richard said: ‘We have manufactured this to EN166, the British Standard for eye protection. We are having it tested independently to give us a CE mark, which will allow us to distribute across Europe.

‘Different companies are making different components of the Provizage visor. They are all specialists in their field as we wanted the best materials made to the highest standards. It’s important that quality is high, that environmental impact is low, and that we can get components promptly to satisfy demand. Our ethos is to manufacture in the UK, so we are proud that this is a British product. While it will take a little longer to produce the first batches, our supply chain is secure and once we begin to ship at the beginning of July we can produce and distribute with very short lead times.

'As soon as I knew we would be required to wear a visor my heart sank. In my earlier hospital career I used to work in a HIV AIDS clinic conducting oral surgery. Due to our lack of understanding, I was required by my consultant to wear huge quantities of PPE. I was fully gowned, had head covering, shoe covering, double gloves, surgical mask and visor. I remember how tough this was for me personally as a clinician and how de-humanising this was for the patient. This experience, and my career as a dentist, provides a unique and clear understanding of what dental care teams need to get them practising safely. Good quality vision, prevention of splashes and splatters coming up at you, the ability to wear loupes and the need for comfort are all high on the agenda. The Provizage visor addresses all of these.'

He added: 'Importantly, it is robust and re-usable, so you can wipe it down to disinfect it. This gives you an ROI on disposable visors of less than four weeks and is environmentally friendly, reducing clinical waste. Dental practices deserve cost-effective PPE and we are bringing them that’.

The visor is available to purchase at www.provizage.com. There are some introductory offers and, before the end of July, it’s VAT exempt.

Richard concluded: ‘We have had a number of dentists already order and we will be shipping early July. We have been working hard manufacturing components and planned that we would be launching in July when we predicted practices would re-open. We are very grateful that dentists and DCPs are bearing with us and choosing a product that will last.’