The Rutgers School of Dental Medicine (RSDM) has received a nearly $200,000 grant to begin investigating whether regular COVID-19 testing at dental practices would improve safety and reassure staff and patients.
“We’re assuming people will feel safer if patients and dental office staff are tested regularly, but we’re not sure,” said dean Cecile A. Feldman, the project’s principal investigator.
Funded by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the pilot study will explore the effect of tests administered to staff and patients. Four area dental practices will be enrolled in the study, all of them part of the Practice Based Research Network, a group of dentists in private practice who work together to translate research findings into practice.
RSDM researchers will design the testing protocol and infrastructure of the pilot study and also examine the effectiveness of other protocols, such as temperature checks upon admittance.
For one month, staff and some patients will be given one of two types of tests: a point-of-care nasal swab that shows results within 15 minutes, and a saliva test that can be mailed to patients before a visit and is sent to a lab, which provides results within 48 hours.
Dental healthcare workers including dentists, hygienists, assistants, and front desk personnel will be tested every two weeks. Patients also will be tested, and both groups will be surveyed to see if the testing decreases any doubts or anxieties about dental visits during the pandemic. The pilot project will run for one month in each practice.
Feldman hopes the results of the pilot study will lead to funding for larger-scale research.