‘We are specialists’: Why one Ontario dentist supports COVID-19 testing in dental clinics

TORONTO — Patients coming in to see their dentist or hygienist should be able to get a COVID-19 test, says one Ontario dentist.

Dr. George Christodoulou, co-CEO at Altima Healthcare Canada, says that could reduce lines at assessment centres and preserve personal protective equipment as the province and country heads into a second wave.

“We are specialists at taking care of people’s mouths and oral hygiene, we should be able to help out in the testing as well,” Christodoulou told CTV’s Your Morning on Monday.

He said dentists are already outfitted with the necessary PPE and are observing safety protocols in treating patients. A COVID-19 test could be built into an exam or treatment for any patient who wants one.

“Our patients are coming in to see us already. There’s 5,000-plus dentists in Ontario, 14,000 hygienists. We typically see about 20 patients a day. That’s 100,000 patients that can be tested without the use of additional resources.”

Altima Healthcare Canada Inc., which operates more than 100 dental clinics in Canada, has formally asked the Ontario government to consider its idea.

The Ontario Dental Association wouldn’t comment on it, except to say the organization will address it at an upcoming meeting.

In a statement to CTV, ODA Maggie Blood said: “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. That being said, we’ll be watching with interest how the roll out for testing at pharmacies goes.”

Last Friday, Ontario joined Alberta in being the only provinces allowing pharmacies to undertake COVID-19 testing. In Ontario, patients coming to drugstores for testing must be asymptomatic and within high-risk groups.

Those with symptoms or confirmed exposure to a case of the virus are required to go to assessment centres.

A union representing Ontario’s hospital workers, the Council of Hospital Unions, is raising concerns about the safety of pharmacy testing, arguing that it could result in sick people mingling with others.

Ontario is seeing a growing number of new cases of the virus, including 491 on Sunday. That’s the biggest single-day increase since May 2 and brings the total number of cases in the province to just under 50,000.

The province has tested a total of more than 3.8 million cases, but according to federal numbers, it is falling short of its daily testing target of 78,000 by almost 46 per cent. 

In fact, Manitoba is the only province that it is reaching daily testing capacity targets agreed to under the national plan to restart the economy. 


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