ADA announces support for dental COVID testing

November 6, 2020

The American Dental Association has announced support of COVID-19 testing in dental facilities.

The American Dental Association (ADA) has issued a new policy stating point-of-care testing is within dentists’ scope of practice. Screening patients for COVID-19 and other chronic diseases or medical conditions that may make dental care difficult or put the patient and dental professionals at risk all fall under dentists’ purview, a statement from the ADA read.

“Yet currently, rapid and reliable COVID-19 tests are not available to dentists for in-office use, which makes no sense,” ADA President Daniel Klemmedson, DDS, MD said. Dentists are doctors of oral health, he continued.

“It is well within dentists’ scope of practice to screen not just for COVID-19 infection but also other medical conditions that may affect dental care such as glucose levels, which help screen for diabetes, and blood pressure, which help screen for hypertension,” Dr Klemmedson said. “Patients with abnormal test results would be referred to a physician, other qualified medical professional or medical facility for diagnosis and follow-up care.”

As dental professionals have implemented new infection control protocols and practices around the country have re-opened safely amidst the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, it is Dr Klemmedon’s position that dentists should be given access to point-of-care testing that is authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These tests would aid dentists in screening patients and identifying those infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, he said.

Dentists are included on the FDA’s list of professionals who can test for COVID-19, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended dental practices consider pre-procedure testing for COVID-19, particularly during shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE).

The ADA and state dental societies are currently pushing for state and federal regulatory authorities to publicly recognize that point-of-care testing for COVID-19 is within dentists’ scope of practice and make such tests available for use in dental settings.

“With dental practices reopened across the country, dentists are already screening patients for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, and referring patients for appropriate medical follow-up when indicated,” Dr Klemmedson said. “Unfortunately, such screening alone will not identify all individuals who are infected. Identifying infected patients is key to being able to protect both patients and dental team members from exposure to the virus.”

Testing is especially critical in identifying those carrying the virus as patients receiving dental treatment may be pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic, Dr Klemmedson continued, and such testing could mitigate the risk of these patients infecting others.