The year 2020 shook up the world in more ways than we care to remember. The biggest shocker was the spread of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) throughout the world. Coronavirus stopped businesses in their tracks, including dental practices. Offices were shut down for two full months, with most offices only seeing emergency patients due to concerns about spreading the virus from aerosols created during dental procedures. Finally, in April, the CDC and California Dental Association issued guidelines stating that in order to reopen safely, dental offices “MUST have a way to eliminate, reduce, or contain aerosols created during dental treatment.” This mandate put one innovative doctor on a mission to find a solution. There were other devices already on the market, but none that could attach to a dental chair, seamlessly fit into a dental treatment room, and effectively remove aerosols. Dr. Roholt quickly went to work inventing a device that satisfied the needs of CDC, CDA, Dentists, and Hygienists. First, it had to be attached to the dental chair instead of cluttering up the room, second, it had to be available at all times and third, it must remove the majority of aerosols generated during dental treatment.
To assure the unit worked, Dr. Roholt started putting together vacuums and filters to verify that he could make something that worked. He pulled apart the central vacuum in his home, taping motors, and filters into drainage boxes to see how much suction he could achieve. After many versions (he is now on the 9th working prototype and final design you see now) and trial and error, his invention, now called AeroSol Away, began to take shape. On April 19, 2020, Dr. Roholt filed for and was given a provisional patent for his idea! Just over one month from the shutdown, Dr. Roholt was on his way to creating a stand-alone, chair mounted aerosol reduction device to help protect himself and his staff from potentially infective aerosols.
By July, AeroSol Away had been refined enough to warrant testing. Dr. Roholt contacted the Medical University of South Carolina School of Dentistry and shipped one of the early prototypes for testing. Results from testing at MUSC were more than Dr. Roholt could have hoped for. In an email regarding the result, Dr. Walter Renne stated, “if you do the math on the data, you are reducing aerosols by 97% and 100% with HVE.” With the data confirming what he already suspected, Dr. Roholt was confident that this should be the standard in every dental operatory.
One of the most critical factors about aerosol reduction is how close the vacuum is to the source. For example, our in-office HVE has a vacuum efficiency (Vc*) of 285 ft/min at ½ inch but looses efficiency very quickly. Majority of the aerosol removal devices available are 8-10 inches away from the oral cavity, proving to be significantly less effective at reducing aerosols (only about 10-20 ft/minute). AeroSol Away has a powerful vacuum (over 100CFM) and is remarkably close to the oral cavity (1-2 inches), resulting in over 3,000 ft/min of effective vacuum power! The combination of close proximity to the oral cavity and strong suction provides significantly higher reduction of aerosols and protection for doctors, hygienists and dental staff.
Next, came the hard work! Dr. Roholt established Aero-Sol-Away, LLC and began the arduous process of obtaining the certifications necessary to sell his invention. “Learning about the steps involved in taking an idea to market was way more extensive than I ever imagined. We are pursuing ISO 9001:2015 certification to ensure best practices in quality manufacturing and UL Certification to assure safe operation for the end user. All of these endeavors require a great deal of time and a substantial financial investment. What we are most proud of is that our team has worked tirelessly to transform an idea into a proof of concept and quickly advance into an exceptional working prototype in under 1 year. We are pushing for a rapid Covid Application for our final patent. If we are lucky, we may even have the final patent in the extremely near future.”
For Dr. Roholt, the top 2 priorities of AeroSol Away’s development are keeping the manufacturing in the USA and keeping the price affordable enough for dentists to purchase a unit for every chair. As luck would have it, a large-scale metal fabrication operation was sitting right around the corner in our hometown of Auburn, California the whole time. This strategic partnership has allowed AeroSol Away to graduate from a prototype assembled with “off-the-shelf parts” to a professionally manufactured device that ranks up among industry standards, suitable for any clinical office. Dr. Roholt explained that “Having the housing fabricated out of durable powder coated sheet metal moved AeroSol Away to the next level of professionalism and quality. In the end, AeroSol Away will not only be super effective, but will also look awesome!”
AeroSol Away is on track to release its newest improved design in Spring of 2021, less than one year from its inception. “My goal is to keep the price point affordable,” said Dr. Roholt. “I firmly believe that it is imperative to protect doctors, staff, and patients from potentially harmful aerosols. Aerosol reduction devices should be mandatory, just like amalgam waste filters and sterilizers. Patients are relaying feelings of safety and comfort knowing their doctor has taken patient care to the next level by installing AeroSol Away as their choice of aerosol reduction device.
*Vc (Capture Velocity) is the MOST Important Measurement to consider!! Vacuum effectiveness decreases with the square of the distance from the source. In other words, it is critical to have the vacuum nozzles as close to the aerosol source as possible.
Vc = Capture Velocity: Ability of a vacuum to pull aerosols from the source. It is based on the knowledge that a vacuum’s suction decreases by the square of the distance from the source. Small changes in distance can result in a HUGE drop in effectiveness.
*Vc= q (cfm) / 2x² C)
q = air volume flow ft³/m (CFM)
x = distance from exhaust outlet (cm)
C = Circumference of tube
Sourced from Engineering Tool Box: https://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/exhaust-hoods-d_1036.html