HELENA, December 7, 2020
In October, MDA worked with the State of Montana Department of Emergency Services to have dentists administer the COVID-19 rapid tests. Fourteen dental practices across Montana are currently offering COVID-19 rapid testing services to all dental practices in the state. Four more sites will be open by December 11, expanding the geography so more practices will have to drive fewer miles to get tested. The Montana Dental Association can continue to grow the number of sites to 30 as more dental practices become comfortable with the safety protocols and volunteer to be a test site.
Each practice has a slightly different method of handling dental team members from other offices. Most have them set an appointment by phone, and they arrive at the allotted time and stay in their car with a mask on. The dentist that is administering the rapid test approaches the vehicle (with a mask, face-shield,gown and gloves) and provides the nasal swabs to be self-administered. The dentist then returns inside their practice and tests the sample. If it’s positive, it usually activates the test very quickly. If it’s negative, the patient will know in 15 minutes. The dentist reports the results to the person and forwards results to the county state each day.
The test results, whether positive or negative, have had a significant impact on access to care. If positive, dental team members are sent home to quarantine, while other staffers are tested. Many dentists have related that the tests—when negative—result in immediate relief on the part of the employee and the rest of the team. Before the rapid tests were available, staffers were sidelined for 5-7 days or more while waiting for results. If the results were negative, the practice lost that many work days from that employee.
“These rapid tests are having a big impact on productivity and morale in dental teams,” said MDA President, Dr. Jason Tanguay. “To my knowledge, Montana is still the only state who has dentists testing other dentists and dental team members with these rapid tests. Our colleagues in other states wish they had this tool.”