From teeth to technology: Tucson dentist battles COVID-19 by 3D printing masks

Tucson dentist fashions masks for healthcare workers

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - At Designer Dental near Wilmot Road and Grant Road, exam rooms are empty. But Dr. Josh Nagao, DDS, is hard at work spending his time around a 3D printer instead of a patient.

"Dentists were like ‘hey we have this stuff we’re not in our offices why don’t we print stuff that can be used in hospitals to help?’” Nagao said.

Typically, Nagao would use the printer in his practice for printing models instead of pouring things in stone or making surgical guides. But now that business has been limited, he decided to begin printing to help others.

"There are masks being printed that can be reused and filters are put in them, there’s face shield holders that you just add plastic in to hold a face shield that can protect you from splatter.”

It’s the way he and many others are responding to Tuesday’s call from Pima County to help during this nationwide shortage.

"The good thing is, there is a lot of people trying a lot of different designs, so it hasn’t just been me sitting on a computer thinking about what’s going to work.”

Printing one mask is not an easy process — it takes about three hours for one alone — but, while business is slow, it’s time well spent that could help save lives.

"It’s kind of weird to think that we’re printing masks and it is going to make a huge difference,” he said.

He’s printed six masks so far and is now in talks with a bigger dental lab in the county who can help speed up the process.

That way they can cover the faces of those on the front lines as quickly as possible.

"If one mask can be used by one person and be wiped down all day and that keeps one person even from—one health care worker from contracting the virus or any other disease spread like that I would say that’s a win," said Dr. Nagao.

For templates and step-by-step instructions click here.

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