BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., Jan. 12, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Next time you go to get your teeth cleaned, imagine spitting into a vial and getting rapid Covid-19 results from your dentist. That scenario is now being advocated by Dr. Joel Strom, a former California State Dental Board President and Adjunct Fellow at the Cambridge, Massachussets-based Forsyth Institute which is one of the leading research centers for oral biology and salivary diagnostics in the world.
"Of all health professionals, dentists have the most experience and understanding of saliva, its physiological role, how to collect it safely and how to evaluate it," said Dr. Strom who also states "that with approximately 200 million dental visits annually nationwide, the environment and ease of collection make the dental office the perfect place to do this."
Media frequently reports on PCR nasal swabs, rapid antigen tests, and finger sticks but these tests can be uncomfortable, expensive, and involve long wait times. Obtaining results may take several days. Salivary testing, however, has received little news coverage, yet offers more comfort, faster turnaround time, lower cost, and greater access.
"Collecting spit is far more appealing that having your nose swabbed or your finger pricked," says Dr. Strom, "Dentists should be performing in-office, Covid-19 saliva tests on patients to help combat the virus."
Researchers at the Forsyth Institute are working to develop and improve testing devices and technologies that utilize saliva as the test sample. As a critical resource center selected by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative, Forsyth is assisting with the effort to develop and deploy millions of accurate, rapid Covid-19 point-of-care tests used daily in schools, colleges, universities, and for testing underserved populations.
"Since saliva is easy to collect and contains detectable traces of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it is an ideal sample type," says Wenyuan Shi, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Scientific Officer of the Forsyth Institute. "Saliva can also be collected repeatedly, and does not require a specific method or tool to collect, unlike nasal swabs."
Dr. Strom adds, "The availability of comfortable, affordable salivary tests is just one example how dentists are uniquely positioned to increase access to health screenings not only for Covid-19 detection, but also testing for a variety of systemic illnesses or monitoring measures of general health."
In other salivary research, Forsyth scientists are developing a new sampling technique involving a paper strip that collects tiny amounts of saliva from specific salivary glands in the mouth. This method would be ideal for people with Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes dry mouth and dry eyes in more than 4 million Americans. Very little is known about how Sjogren's syndrome impacts individual glands because there hasn't been a way to take such focused samples.
"I have a full understanding of where dentistry falls on the healthcare professional spectrum and would not want to encourage any dentist to veer out of our lane and into clear non-dental treatments," says Dr. Strom. "However, collecting saliva, interpreting a test result and referring to a physician is well within the dental scope of practice and provides patients with a low-cost opportunity to be screened and referred should the salivary evaluation warrant that referral."
The availability of salivary testing administered by dental professionals will provide greater access at lower costs unless government regulators such as medical/dental boards pump the breaks argues Dr. Strom who anticipates a state-by-state consideration of whether dentists are permitted to provide these tests. Dr. Strom believes some states may prohibit dentists from performing saliva tests for Covid-19 reserving testing only for physicians, urgent care facilities and hospitals.
"Dentistry ought to get out in front of this issue." Dr. Strom urges, "patients should make their voices heard to government officials so they can avail themselves of this convenient, comfortable and cost-effective technology."
Dr. Joel Strom is a practicing general dentist in Beverly Hills, a former President of the California State Dental Board and an Adjunct Fellow at the Forsyth Dental Institute. Dr. Strom is also the founder of a political leadership and communications firm, Strom Strategies.
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SOURCE Dr. Joel Strom