VANCOUVER -- A Vancouver dentist whose practice was closed because of COVID-19 teamed up with engineers and scientists to design and manufacture an air filtration system he hopes will encourage patients to come back, and protect against COVID-19.

When the pandemic hit, Dr. Wilson Kwong’s dental office in Oakridge was forced to close. 

“Middle of March, (provincial health officer Dr.) Bonnie Henry said everybody needs to shut down, so we did,” he told McLaughlin On Your Side. 

But with staff and patients staying home and the threat of COVID-19 still looming, Kwong started to wonder what it would take for his practice to reopen. 

“I was scouring the planet for technology that would allow me to continue to work, somewhere down the line,” he says. “Because I couldn’t find anything that actually had the science, I decided to do it myself.” 

Kwong teamed up with engineers and air purification specialists to develop a system that he hopes will allow him to operate without any of the risks associated with the coronavirus. 

“Having a machine that will keep my staff, myself, my patients safe, it was crucial to us going back to work,” he says. “We were able to create a machine that would take the air, clean the air, and put it back into the room as perfectly clean air.”

The machine he and his team created, the Pura Air system, is now installed in his practice. When patients are in his dentist’s chair, a clear plastic dome is pulled down over their face which sucks up any of the aerosols generated by Kwong’s dental work, or by the patient’s speech or breath. 

Feisal Nasser is the president and CEO of Pura Air, the company that worked with Kwong to make the system. He explains that it works on a closed loop. 

“We extract the dirty air or the polluted air, pull it through our remediation process, which includes both scan-tested HEPA filters, a carbon mist and fume chamber, and it has a UV kill chamber in there,” he says. “That basically gets us to 99.995 per cent pure air and we return that back into the environment.”

The PuraAir system has been approved by the Canadian Standards Association, Kwong says, and is in the process of being approved by Health Canada as well. But dental offices, despite hosting dental surgeries, don’t have the same air flow regulations that hospitals do. 

Kwong thinks that should change. 

“What I’d like to see is offices adopt some sort of air protection,” he says. “It’s not mandated at this point. I remember when I graduated I didn’t even have to wear gloves, and then one day they told us we had to also sterilize our hand pieces. So I think this is maybe the next step.”