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Few Kids Seeing a Dentist Have COVID-19, Study Finds

FRIDAY, April 30, 2021 -- Just 2% of young dental patients without COVID-19 symptoms tested positive for the new coronavirus, according to a new study.

Kids with COVID-19 are typically asymptomatic but can carry high levels of SARS-CoV-2 and spread it to others, University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) researchers noted.

Their study included 921 patients, aged 2 to 18, who had emergency dental procedures at UIC dental clinics between April 1 and Aug. 1, 2020.

The patients were screened over the phone before their visits and had no symptoms when they arrived for their appointments. They were given a polymerase chain reaction test for SARS-CoV-2 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,''' said study co-author Dr. Flavia Lamberghini, a clinical assistant professor of pediatric dentistry.

In all, 2.3% of patients tested positive, but rates were statistically higher for Hispanic patients (3.1%). More than six in 10 of the kids in the study were Hispanic.

The findings were published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

If a test was positive, the researchers followed up with the child's pediatrician and caregivers.

"For most of them, it was a surprise to learn their child tested positive," Lamberghini said in a university news release. "It was good for families to know because these kids can transmit the virus, especially in communities where extended families tend to live together."

Knowing a patient has the new coronavirus is also important for dentists, Lamberghini said, because "we are more exposed to the COVID-19 disease because we work close to the mouth, and our tools generate aerosols that can infect the dentist and dental assistant — whoever is around."

The findings may prove useful for pediatric dentists who closed due to the pandemic and are considering reopening, according to co-author Dr. Fernando Testai, a professor of neurology and rehabilitation at UIC.

"Despite these children being COVID-positive, we did not observe transmission to clinic staff, supporting the notion that personal protective equipment works," Testai added.

© 2021 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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