Debora Carrier

How a dental hygienist entrepreneur is helping fight coronavirus

April 14, 2020
Twice as Nice Uniforms recently converted its New Jersey factory to produce and donate fabric masks. Here's how founder Deb Carrier is meeting the challenges of the coronavirus crisis and how you can help.
Amelia Williamson DeStefano, Group Editorial Director

Deb Carrier, founder of Twice as Nice Uniforms, recently made the decision to stop producing her uniform line and focus her teams time on making protective masks.

A press release issued by the company says that the masks feature its two-layer combination of an antimicrobial underlayer combined with top protective fabric, and are breathable, comfortable, and protective.

We had the opportunity to ask her a few questions based on her desire to help.

What factors did you weigh in making this decision, and how long did it take to convert your production lines?

Since most of our sales come from trade shows, I knew this was going to stop for a while. I looked at existing inventory and decided we would be OK to halt production and work on making PPEs to help with the COVID-19 crisis.

I am a problem solver by nature, and I knew I wanted to help as many people as I could. I worked with my designer to come up with a design that was both functional and would fit most. We made six different prototypes and discovered that the liner fabric that we currently use in my scrubs and lab coats would be perfect for masks as the fabric is antimicrobial, moisture wicking and temperature regulating. And by some miracle we just happened to have another fabric sitting in the factory that was perfect for the outer layer.

There is a specific stitch that makes the masks form fit and stretch around your face, so we had to find the parts for the machines to enable us to do this and fit them to our machines. Unfortunately, as demand rose, price gouging began on our raw materials. We had enough fabric and elastic to start the first few thousand masks but as demand grew and continues to grow, getting these items is becoming tougher and tougher as prices are going sky high.

Next, we needed to ensure the safety of our employees, the sewing machines are spaced nine feet from each other and we have been working two shifts so that we do not have too many people in the factory at once.

The CDC recently reversed course and began recommending cloth masks for the public. What do you think about this?

I have thought for a long time that this was a good idea. I understand that the government was reluctant to announce this as we needed to make sure that the front-line medical professionals were very well protected and equipped. However, I think there could have been an earlier intervention asking the public to wear cloth masks and reserve the N95s for the workers that have close contact with critical patients. For the general public practicing social distancing with a fabric mask should be adequate protection.

Can you explain how your cloth masks, although fundamentally different from nonwoven medical masks and N95 respirators, work to protect the wearer?

We are currently having our masks tested for bacteria and virus filtration efficiency so they could be very similar to N95s, but we will not claim anything until the test results are back. This is a line of protection we can have during this shortage of medical grade masks. These cloth masks will protect the wearer from droplets as mentioned above, they can be bleached, autoclaved and UV sterilized. Another aspect of this is making sure that people are wearing the mask properly. Also, these masks can be helpful during this crisis situation by wearing them over a N95 mask to protect from droplet spatter as I am hearing from so many nurses and doctors that they are allotted only one N95 to wear.

No one knows what dentistry will look like when offices reopen, and everyone’s main concern appears to be infection control. What expanded infection control product offerings will you have for dental professionals?

We have had for five years now dental jackets that adhere to our current infection control standards and last year added surgical caps to the line. There were three reasons why I started Twice as Nice Uniforms. I saw the need for uniforms that are comfortable, professional, and safe. Many dental professionals do not wear their PPEs because they are too hot wearing them, my temperature-regulating uniforms solve this problem as well as provide coverage for the dental professional.

I am working on some new designs and technologies for infection control and keeping abreast of what OSAP and the CDC are saying for the future.

Throughout your entrepreneurial career, you’ve faced and overcome many challenges. Do you have any insight for those who are wondering how the dental profession will adapt and move on?

The way I have dealt with the many challenges and hardships I have had on my journey is to ask a lot of questions and surround myself with people that are experts in various fields and learn for them.

I pray every day for my fellow dental professionals as this is a very uncertain time for all of us. I have had many, many conversations with dentists, hygienists, consultants, virologists, and dental sales reps. Do we know exactly what to expect? No, but I feel it will be similar to the early 80s when we dealt with HIV. Patients will be reluctant to come in and will ask a lot of questions and some practitioners will be uncertain as well. We must make sure that we are following all protocols that are in place now and keep abreast of any new guidelines and technologies that are on the horizon.

On a positive note, I believe the dental industry especially dental hygiene has made some big strides in the last few years and the public is starting to take notice and recognize us as the highly skilled, highly educated professionals that we are. As we all know dental hygiene is crucial to everyone's overall health and we can rely on our many great leaders in dental hygiene to figure out the best way to work through this crisis and go back to saving lives.

Editor's note: Twice as Nice Uniforms is donating a portion of the masks produced to individuals and small communities in need. Donations can be made to offset these costs at this GoFundMe page.

Get more up-to-date information about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on dentistry in our COVID-19 Resource Center.