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Dental teams play important role in COVID-19 screening

By Franziska Beier, Dental Tribune International
May 05, 2021

GLASGOW, UK: SARS-CoV-2 transmission by those with asymptomatic infection may be significant, but little is known about this. Therefore, researchers from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing of the University of Glasgow and public health authorities in Scotland have investigated SARS-CoV-2 infection in asymptomatic dental patients to inform surveillance of the spread of the virus and improve understanding of risks in the dental setting.

From 3 August 2020 to 31 October 2020, 4,032 asymptomatic-screened patients over the age of 5 were tested in 31 dental care centres across Scotland. During the patient visits, trained dental teams took combined oropharyngeal and nasal swab samples using standardised test kits, and 22 patients tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Over the study period, the positivity rate of participants increased, and this reflected the underlying prevalence in the community at the time.

“To our knowledge, this is the first COVID-19 surveillance survey in dental settings, and we have demonstrated the feasibility of developing and implementing a surveillance testing protocol at a rapid pace in response to the pandemic,” said the study authors. “Our data suggest that dental settings are a valuable location for public health surveillance,” they added.

The study was considered to be an opportunity to demonstrate the importance of dental teams in SARS-CoV-2 testing and surveillance of asymptomatic infection in Scotland. The study had several advantages, including using trained dental teams for the collection of data and samples and patients being able to receive care despite periods of lockdown restriction. Moreover, there was no need for the clinical teams to use additional personal protective equipment, as they were already wearing it to provide dental care.

“Enhanced community surveillance is a key pillar of the public health response to COVID-19. The results of this study demonstrate the value in, and feasibility of, developing and implementing SARS-CoV-2 surveillance testing within dental settings,” commented Dr Nicholas Jakubovics, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Dental Research, in an International Association for Dental Research press release. “These data are also a salient reminder of the importance of appropriate ongoing infection prevention control and personal protective equipment vigilance,” he continued.

The study, titled “SARS-CoV-2 positivity in asymptomatic-screened dental patients”, was published online on 29 March 2021 in the Journal of Dental Research, ahead of inclusion in an issue.

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