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Two Mission dental offices among only 5 in B.C. to purchase expensive new air-filtration invention

‘My patients can’t wear masks … There’s no other way around it,’ Dr. Stephen Chow said
Dr. Stephen Chow standing next to the hood of the Pura Air Purifier. The hood is placed over the patient’s mouth and has a separate air ducting to suck up aersols released when a dentist works. / Submitted photo.

Two Mission dental offices have acquired an expensive new air-purifying system, making them some of the only dentists in B.C. to have an added layer of protection against COVID-19.

Dr. Stephen Chow from the Mission Dental Clinic said he paid $25,000 for the Pura Air Purifier system, which are manufactured locally in Abbotsford. And that price doesn’t include the installation costs, he said, which run upwards of $10,000 depending on the office.

“In dentistry, we’re right in people’s smiles and faces and they’re breathing on us, we’re breathing on them – so it wasn’t the safest environment to begin with,” Chow said. “Especially when my patients can’t wear masks … There’s no other way around it.”

The Pura Air Purifer is a recent invention of fellow B.C. dentist, Dr. Wilson Kwong, who is a friend and mentor from Chow’s dental study club. Chow said when the pandemic first hit in March, 90 per cent of dental offices shut down, and only some remained open for emergency procedures.

Kwong developed the system “overnight” by borrowing ideas, and working with a couple of companies, from the HVAC and sheet metal industries, according to Chow.

In the same way that diesel and exhaust fumes are filtered out of barns and train yards, a miniaturized system was created for the dental office.

A special clear hood is placed over the patients mouth and has separate air ducting to suck up the “plumes of mist, water and spit” released when a dentist works on teeth.

“If there is any viruses or bacteria this hood would actually capture it, and [send it] through a UV chamber and charcoal filter and return it back into the building as 99.97 per cent clean air,” Chow said.

The noise from the system runs at around 60 decibels, comparable to a washroom fan, he said.

Chow said that he invested in the machine to keep his patients and staff safe, the later of whom spend eight to 10 hours a day in a potential exposure area.

“How many people might be out there that are asymptomatic that might be carriers and spreading it?” he said. “I can’t put a price on my health or someone else’s health that comes through my office.

“I’d feel guilty about not protecting someone if I could have prevented it … This is probably the best system out there other than if you’re in a hospital with a negative pressure room.”

There are only five offices in B.C. who have the system, including Chow and Dr. Cam Kesteven of Kesteven Dental Care Studio in Mission, along with three other offices in Vancouver.