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Ontario dentists to consider possibility of testing patients for COVID-19

Elianna Lev
·3-min read
CANADA - 2011/02/28: Hispanic boy in the dentist chair getting prepared for an X-Ray, dentistry office for children. (Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Visiting the dentist could also include going for a COVID-19 test, depending on the outcome of a discussion this week in Ontario. (Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The Ontario Dental Association will meet Friday to discuss whether it’s possible for dental clinics to administer COVID-19 tests to patients throughout the province. This comes as demand for the service increases along with the number of cases in Ontario.

Last week, select pharmacies across the province started offering the free service to help ease wait times in medical clinics and hospitals that offer COVID-19 testing.

On Tuesday, Ontario reported 554 new cases of COVID-19 in the province, with the majority of cases in Toronto. There are currently 4,791 active cases of the virus throughout the province.

There’s been a sharp increase in patients looking to be tested in recent weeks, with many left waiting in line for hours.

Maggie Blood with the Ontario Dental Association says they are carefully watching how the roll out for testing at pharmacies goes in the meantime, as there are many logistical issues with this kind of added services.

“We’re certainly aware of the idea of COVID-19 testing in dental offices but the main priority for most dentists so far has been getting through the backlog of patients they weren’t able to treat for 12 weeks during the shutdown,” she said in an email.

Blood added that some dental clinics are still experiencing a serious shortage of PPE, particularly N95 masks.

“The ODA has asked the Ministry of Health multiple times to designate dentists as frontline medical staff so they can access provincial stockpiles of PPE,” she said.

George Christodoulou, co-CEO of Altima Dental, says with the proper training, allowing dental staff like hygienists to test patients for COVID-19 seems like a logical step.

“Dental offices see patients every day in a controlled and protected manner,” he tells Yahoo Canada. “They don’t take long so it wouldn’t interfere with patient management. We’d be able to test in a protected manner and we wouldn’t be using additional PPEs.”

He adds that testing dental patients wouldn’t stress the system as it could be done at clinics, for those who want to be tested as part of their dental appointment. That way, there wouldn’t be the need for additional testing sites and could put an ease on wait times at clinics.

“The idea isn’t to go out to solicit patients, we’re already seeing patients now,” says Christodoulou. “This is meant to help the government and reduce stress on the system.”

While saliva-based COVID-19 testing isn’t yet available in Canada, Christodoulou says that type of testing would be easiest to administer in a dental office.

“We deal with saliva all the time,” he says. “But ultimately it would depend on what the government would allow us to do and who we could train.”

The Government of Ontario did not respond to a request for an interview by publication time.