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ADA urges HHS to federally recognize licensed dentists to administer point of service COVID-19 tests

Association says enabling dentists to test patients prior to treatment will help lower entire dental team’s risk of exposure

April 17, 2020

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — The ADA sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services April 17 asking the agency to “issue federal recognition that licensed dentists may administer point of service tests authorized by the Food and Drug Administration” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the letter to Adm. Brett P. Giroir, M.D., HHS assistant secretary for health, the ADA explained that administering these types of tests falls under licensed dentists’ scope of practice. The Association said by issuing federal recognition, dentists would qualify as “covered persons” under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, which may extend protection from liability associated with the administration or use of FDA-authorized COVID-19 tests.

“Dentistry is essential to the public’s health. Enabling dentists to test patients prior to dental treatment will help lower the ‘very high exposure risk’ of dental personnel in contracting COVID-19 when treating infected but asymptomatic patients,” wrote ADA President Chad P. Gehani and Executive Director Kathleen T. O’Loughlin in the HHS letter. “It would add a layer of safety for both dental personnel and the patients they treat. This is important not only now — when most dentists are performing only urgent and emergency dental procedures — but also as the nation cautiously reopens.”

The ADA also said front-end testing would “enable dental offices to optimize their personal protective equipment,” noting, “optimizing the use of PPE is particularly important now, when PPE is scarce in all health care settings, including emergency departments.”

Drs. Gehani and O’Loughlin said the Association recognizes that COVID-19 testing kits are “currently scarce,” but pointed out that approving dentists to administer the tests now “will expand the nation’s medical surge capacity, optimize the use of PPE in health care settings, and create a safer environment for treating dental patients who would otherwise seek care in overburdened emergency departments.”

Citing research from the ADA Health Policy Institute, they noted, every year more than 27 million people visit a dentist but do not see a physician.

“Federal guidance for dentists to administer FDA-authorized COVID-19 tests would help make every encounter an opportunity to test those individuals,” they concluded.

The ADA is advising dentists to steer clear of so-called “gray market” point-of-care tests for COVID-19 and is recommending dentists follow the direction issued by the FDA regarding testing procedures in their practices, according to an April 17 ADA News story. Dentists should also be aware that manufacturers and distributors are prioritizing the distribution of the available kits to facilities with high-level needs, the article said.

For the latest updates about issues surrounding COVID-19, visit ADA.org/virus.