Tracking potential COVID cases in pediatric dental patients

pediatric dental patients COVID-19
Photo: kzenon 123RF

A US study has shown a novel way to track potential COVID-19 cases—testing children who visit the dentist. The study also showed an over two per cent positivity rate for the asymptomatic children tested.

The study by a team at the University of Illinois Chicago—and published in the Journal of the American Dental Association—looked at pediatric patients who visited UIC dental clinics for emergency dental procedures from 1 April to 1 August, 2020. 

Children with COVID-19 are typically asymptomatic but have the potential to carry substantial viral loads and be a source of infection. 

The patients were screened over the phone prior to their scheduled visits and were asymptomatic when they arrived for their appointments. They were given a polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test for SARS-CoV-2 infection at their visit.

“The kids tolerated the test just fine. We were trained by a pediatrician on how to conduct the test. We used the nasal swab. We told the kids, ‘We are putting a butterfly in your nose,”’ Dr Flavia Lamberghini, UIC clinical assistant professor in the department of pediatric dentistry, said.

The patients, between the ages of two to 18, with a median age of six, were tested. Sociodemographic characteristics were abstracted, and positivity rates were calculated. With the sample size of 921 patients, the overall SARS-Co-V-2 positivity rate was 2.3 per cent. 

Prior to the study, children receiving dental procedures were not required to undergo PCR tests. The study concluded that PCR testing for COVID-19 of asymptomatic patients in pediatric dentistry adds value to the use of screening questionnaires for the identification of infected people who could be contagious.

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  1. The only cases of COVID spread in the dental setting was at Hampstead Dental in Victoria – and it was between staff members – not to or from patients.


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