North American Dental Group (NADG) said it will convert hundreds of its currently closed affiliated dental offices to COVID-19 testing sites to relieve the pressure on overstressed hospital emergency rooms and increase availability of tests to the public.
Tests initially will be provided for symptomatic patients and those who meet at-risk criteria. The pilot program will be conducted by a supported physician oral surgeon in Scarsdale, New York, who is sourcing tests from several testing providers including a large, national lab, NADG said.
The dental service organization expects to roll out this testing program to hundreds of its affiliated dental offices across 15 states and 29 regional markets. The program then could be implemented by dental offices from coast to coast, NADG said.
“Once we prove this approach works, we believe NADG will be able to provide testing to thousands of individuals who currently lack timely access to tests that can limit the spread of COVID-19 and save lives,” said Dr. Frank Nia, NADG’s chief clinical officer.
“NADG believes that dentists, whose offices have been closed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, can play a large role in getting a greater number of Americans tested. We are excited to establish a model that allows the dental industry to contribute in a meaningful way during this national health emergency by reducing the burden on the medical community,” Nia said.
The program will use the swab test and then switch over to the five-minute COVID-19 test from Abbott Laboratories or alternatives once that testing system is more widely available, NADG said.
“We believe there are tens of thousands of dental offices around the country that can step into the COVID-19 testing role and help relieve the hospital systems from this additional testing burden, not to mention helping slow the spread of this deadly virus by providing Americans a definitive positive or negative test result,” said Dr. Andrew Matta, NADG’s chief medical officer and founding partner.
NADG plans to establish new guidelines for both this interim strategy and the more permanent point of service strategy to support routine dental care. Guidelines will be posted to its COVID-19 dental resources website. NADG expects in-office testing to become the new normal in a post-pandemic world and will publish protocols to guide the industry, Matta said.
“Staying adaptable and responsive in this time of great need is the current focus of the organization. We are committed to do our part to fight COVID-19 by contributing our resources and operations to help in every way possible,” said Ken Cooper, NADG’s chief executive officer.