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Association backs use of point-of-care test in dental practices

Resolution highlights dentists’ ability to ID underlying illnesses, including COVID-19

By Kimber Solana

Dentists can play a larger role in the early identification of possible medical conditions — including COVID-19 — in patients by utilizing point-of-care screening tests when conducting patient evaluations, according to a resolution passed by the ADA House of Delegates on Oct. 19.

“[Resolution 22H-2020] provides dentists another mechanism to assess the relative risks or benefits of providing dental care when patients with medical co-morbidities or even clinical evidence that indicates a possible underlying undiagnosed illness,” said Duc M. Ho, D.D.S, chair of the ADA Council on Dental Practice.

Over the years, dentists have incorporated some forms of medical screenings when evaluating patients. These include screenings for oral cancer and checking a patient’s blood pressure.

“Dentists are alert to clinical evidence that indicates a possible underlying undiagnosed illness,” the resolution’s background states. In addition, advances in point-of-care testing have produced screening tests that are reliable, easy-to-use and can be quickly performed in a dental office.

Findings from a point-of-care test can be shared with the patient and the patient’s physician for appropriate diagnoses and treatments, according to the resolution. This can result in more collaborative and comprehensive care for the patient.

Point-of-care testing, Dr. Ho said, can be used during the current pandemic to screen patients for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. Dentists can then refer patients with positive findings to medical providers for diagnosis and management.

The screening has the potential to play an important role in preventing the spread of the virus and allow dentists to safely provide complete oral care treatment to their patients. According to the ADA Health Policy Institute, more than 27 million people a year visit a dentist but do not see a physician.

“Although there are obvious state and federal requirements to abide by, this policy provides a foundation for future advocacy, which could help to prevent the spread of the virus while safely providing complete oral care treatment to their patients,” he added.

The American Dental Association, in consultation with its Advisory Task Force on Dental Practice Recovery, released in October the COVID-19 & Lab Testing Requirements Toolkit to help guide dentists interested in offering their patients rapid response, point-of-care COVID-19 testing within their practices.

Some dentists have expressed interest in offering patients rapid response COVID-19 testing once reliable point-of-care testing is available at a level that makes it feasible for it to be used in individual dental practices, according to the toolkit.

Tests for COVID-19 have received Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Dentists have to register for a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments certificate of waiver from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for the specific tests they want to perform, which are typically simple procedures and laboratory examinations that have a low risk for error.

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