Surgical Masks vs N95 Respirators: Shield against Covid-19 Part 1

Portrait of Human

January 29th, 2020· 5 min read

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I just want to be prepared...

Not all masks are made the same. With personal protection and preventative measures paramount to curbing the spread of the Wuhan virus, you should be informed on which masks provide adequate protection.

Read on to find out how you can effectively shield yourself from the Covid-19.

You can also refer to our handy guide on which areas are Coronavirus hotspots, updated every Friday!

Surgical masks vs N95 respirator

The director of operations at Singapore’s Ministry of Health said that you should be using surgical masks, not N95 [1]. You might have read articles mentioning that too!

You may think: if N95 masks are so highly recommended against the haze and other pollutants, it should be the best bet against the Covid-19, no? After all, we should bring out the big guns.

Well, let’s consider a few factors:

Covid-19 spreads through droplets

During the haze season, the N95 respirator is necessary because we are fighting against tiny air particles [2].

The Covid-19, however, is a different case. Experts and reports suggested that the Wuhan virus transmits from human to human through respiratory droplets [3][4]. This is similar to how Influenza, or the flu, spreads.

Respiratory droplets refer to the expelled splatter of moisture when you cough or sneeze. This is different from airborne transmissions.

Surgical masks can protect against droplets

Doctors are recommending surgical masks because they can effectively shield against respiratory droplets and are more comfortable to wear. They are, after all, designed for that purpose.

Research found that there is no significant difference in the risk of influenza-like illness between N95 respirators and surgical masks [5]. Since Covid-19 spreads through droplets like Influenza, it is safe to assume that surgical masks can provide effective protection.

Save N95 for another time

As a result of the way N95 masks work to protect you from airborne particles, you will find it harder to breathe when used correctly. That is how they make sure the air you breathe in is well-filtered. Medical staff will need this option, but for the general public, a surgical mask is the better one.

Quoting Prof Leo, the director of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, “If you find the N95 mask easy to breathe in and comfortable, you are wearing it wrong and it's no use… you think you are protected but you are not.” [1]

Point is, wear the masks correctly!


To wear a surgical mask correctly, put it on with the coloured face of your mask facing the outside and the white face towards you, against your mouth.

You will find a rigid strip on one of the sides; that is the top side. After putting on the mask, pinch the rigid strip over your nose so that it sits snugly on your nose bridge. Make sure that the mask fully covers your nose and mouth.

In the following video, Dr Gerald Tan, a dental surgeon at Elite Dental Group, shows you how to wear a surgical mask properly:

Do not use a mask for more than one day

Once soiled, damaged, or wet, dispose immediately and use a new one. When you remove your mask, do not touch the front side as there may be germs and droplets. After taking it off, wash your hands with soap [6].

Click here for updates regarding the Wuhan virus.

I hope that you've found this guide useful, and perhaps gained more insight into the application process. Most of the admissions-related information (admin and logistics wise) can be found on the official NUS Faculty of Dentistry website.

To help yourself out, you should take note of what people look for when they look for a dentist.

This article was written by Human and published on Wednesday, 25 January 2017. Human medically reviewed the article on Wednesday, 25 January 2017. The last update was made on Friday, 18 September 2020.

Disclaimer: Opinions belong to the author and not to the platform.

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