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Letters: Testing COVID-19 patients

May 04, 2020

I truly believe that the future of dentistry relies on the ability of dental offices to perform the rapid COVID-19 tests. This is something we are going to have to advocate strongly for. We could become part of a national plan to prevent a second wave from occurring. Currently, a large sector of our health care system is debilitated. Dental offices across the country are restricted to emergent care.

Unfortunately, nonemergent care becomes emergent when it is not treated. This can result in the need for additional procedures, loss of teeth and elevate the risk of serious health complications. Dental professionals inherently have a higher risk of contracting the virus due to the nature of their work.

Dental professionals need to get back to seeing routine patients. In the current situation, that will require use of valuable personal protective equipment to protect providers and patients. A solution to this difficult situation lies in rapid testing.

Equipping dental professionals with the ability to test patients will solve several problems and provide valuable information. This prevents emergent dental complications, opens up a large sector of the economy and, very importantly, will provide valuable data about the prevalence of the virus in asymptomatic people in our communities. It is not my suggestion that dentists test symptomatic people. There needs to be telescreening, and nonemergent dentistry must be restricted to asymptomatic people.

The information that the dentists collect could help prevent a second wave of the virus from occurring. This is due to it being based on asymptomatic members of the community.

I realize that at this current time, rapid testing should be directed to high-risk, underserved areas of the country that have limited access to other testing modalities. However, as time passes and manufacturing capabilities increase for rapid tests, this scenario becomes quite plausible.

The benefits of a dental-based testing protocol alleviate several serious issues. A second viral wave can be prevented, necessary health care is being performed, people can get back to work and precious PPE can be preserved for those working directly with COVID-19 patients.

Kathryn Smith, D.M.D.
Woodbridge, Virginia