Protective masks

BonaDent Dental Laboratories is building protective masks, which are in short supply, for healthcare workers and others in need of them.

SENECA FALLS — BonaDent Dental Laboratories isn’t in the business of making face shields for a medical industry battling a pandemic.

“We’re a dental lab. We make dental devices,” said BonaDent President Bruce Bonafiglia.

But not so many right now.

BonaDent temporarily lost 90 percent of its dental-products business when the American Dental Association asked members to limit work to emergency dentistry only, forcing them to furlough nearly half of its workforce.

Bonafiglia said those workers and the work will come back, but in the meantime, the company hopes to make a contribution in the battle against the pandemic, that is not only infecting the general populace but those treating them.

The company is focused now on increasing the inventory of personal protective gear, which continues to be in short supply.

Finger Lakes Health had reached out to the dental-products company to see if it could provide gloves and masks for its employees. The company responded by reaching out to dentists it works with for donations, offering them a credit on their next bill in exchange.

But BonaDent’s efforts to boost the personal protective products inventory didn’t end there. There were other needs not being met on local and national levels.

“What we found is the face shields are needed as much as anything else, certainly in our area,” said Bonafiglia.

But a challenge remained: The company didn’t have experience making them.

“It wasn’t too difficult to pivot, but it was completely out of our wheelhouse,” Bonafiglia said.

Daniele Bonafiglia-Wirth, who serves as BonaDent’s vice president, said they turned to companies they work with for advice, and they “adapted quickly,” going from idea to manufacturing in a two-week span.

The protective shields are being built in Seneca Falls and Melbourne, Florida.

With its shift to manufacturing the much-needed shields, BonaDent joins a host of regional and national companies answering the call by both government and healthcare leaders for not only personal protective equipment, but also ventilators. The effort is similar to what happened in World War II, when companies like General Motors shifted from building cars to making tanks.

However, in this case, BonaDent isn’t making any money on them. The 1,000 shields it completed on Thursday are being given to local hospitals, police and others for free.

“In this situation, we don’t want to be in the business of profiteering” from a public health crisis, said Bonafiglia.

Rochester Regional Health has asked for 10,000 of the shields, which cost about $20 each to manufacture, he said.

Bonafiglia admitted it’s “a huge number,” but said that BonaDent will create three shifts if necessary to give RGH what it needs, even if the hospital system has financial challenges, given the increasing costs associated with treating people with COVID-19.

“What’s most important to us is to be able to help those in need,” said Bonafiglia-Wirth, who added BonaDent workers “are feeling tremendous pride” for their role in helping protect those on the front lines of the pandemic.

Bonafiglia praised his employees for stepping up in these unprecedented times.

“We are absolutely nothing without our people here,” he said. “We have very dedicated, hard-working employees.”

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