VANCOUVER -- B.C. dentists and dental hygienists are calling on people to stop buying so many masks for themselves as the industry experiences a shortage.

"If we run out, then it is possible we would have to shut down operations," said Dr. Hussein Shivji at Asante Dental in Vancouver.

He said dentists in B.C. no longer have access to the level three respirator N-95 mask, which can protect dentists from a virus like COVID-19.

Meanwhile, many offices are only able to access the level one mask on a limited basis.

According to Shivji and the British Columbia Dental Hygienists' Association, dentists and dental hygienists are required by law to change their masks after each patient.

"It makes sense because you don't really want to see a dental hygienist that looks like they have been wearing the same mask for more than four hours," said Andrea Burton, executive director with BCDHA. "The public needs to leave the supplies for the health care providers."

In February, the Better Business Bureau warned consumers to be wary of possible resale scams as stores in Metro Vancouver sold out of masks amidst growing concerns about the virus.

"Where it's not known is how effective wearing a mask in the community is when you are not sick yourself," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer, last month. "The masks may give you a false sense of security. The most important thing you can do in the community is wash your hands regularly."

Healthcare professionals have maintained that washing your hands regularly and avoiding touching your face are among the most important things people can do to protect themselves from getting sick.