About this release

This report includes analysis of twenty weeks of surveillance data collected from asymptomatic patients attending dental settings across Scotland from 3 August 2020 to 18 December 2020. It is part of the wider programme of Enhanced Surveillance of COVID-19 in Scotland (ESoCiS).

Main points

  • Nearly 8000 patients attending dental clinics across Scotland had a COVID-19 swab test when attending for dental care.
  • The asymptomatic dental surveillance programme identified that, even though people who have been screened as having no symptoms of COVID-19, they can return a positive test.
  • Swab COVID-19 positivity rates reflected the underlying community prevalence from 3 August 2020 to 18 December 2020. Overall test positivity was 0.6% (95% Confidence Interval 0.4%, 0.8%)
  • The results are a salient reminder to clinical staff that patients, although asymptomatic, may still harbour the virus, so ongoing adherence to good Infection Prevention Control (IPC) guidance and adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are important.
  • The findings and implications are pertinent for other clinical outpatient settings.
  • Dental settings are a feasible setting for population surveillance to be carried out.
Table 1: Numbers of samples, test results and percentage positive for SARS-CoV-2 per week with confidence intervals (20 weeks between 3rd August to 18th December 2020); dental settings in Scotland
Programme week Samples Negative Void Positive Percentage positive Lower CI* Upper CI*
Week 1 (3 Aug -) 73 72 1 0 0.0 0.0 5.0
Week 2 110 109 1 0 0.0 0.0 3.4
Week 3 89 86 3 0 0.0 0.0 4.1
Week 4 85 85 0 0 0.0 0.0 4.3
Week 5 326 283 43 0 0.0 0.0 1.2
Week 6 343 288 55 0 0.0 0.0 1.1
Week 7 402 384 16 2 0.5 0.1 1.8
Week 8 412 405 7 0 0.0 0.0 0.9
Week 9 413 410 2 1 0.2 0.0 1.4
Week 10 441 421 13 7 1.6 0.8 3.2
Week 11 441 435 5 1 0.2 0.0 1.3
Week 12 524 509 9 6 1.1 0.5 2.5
Week 13 546 526 15 5 0.9 0.4 2.1
Week 14 614 612 1 1 0.2 0.0 0.9
Week 15 608 595 10 3 0.5 0.2 1.4
Week 16 632 620 2 10 1.6 0.9 2.9
Week 17 510 506 3 1 0.2 0.0 1.1
Week 18 431 424 4 3 0.7 0.2 2.0
Week 19 402 394 6 2 0.5 0.1 1.8
Week 20 (14 Dec - ) 387 381 3 3 0.8 0.3 2.3
Overall total
(weeks 1 to 20)
7789 7545 199 45 0.6 0.4 0.8

*Confidence interval

Background

Following lockdown in March 2020, Urgent Dental Care Centres (UDCCs) were established across Scotland for dental emergency provision. As patients attending these UDCCs were already making an essential visit outside lockdown restrictions, it was proposed that dentistry should contribute to COVID-19 testing and surveillance. Dental teams could be trained to undertake COVID-19 swab testing and were already wearing appropriate PPE. Moreover, dental settings in Scotland had previously been shown to be a feasible source of participants, representative of the population for virus (HPV) testing.

PHS established a National Steering Group for surveillance of COVID-19 in dental settings, focussing on asymptomatic patients who had already been screened as free from symptoms prior to their dental appointment. Two NHS boards (NHS Fife and NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde) piloted the programme before it was rolled out nationally.

Further information

The publication will be released on an ad-hoc basis.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please email raymond.braid@nhs.scot.

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Last updated: 28 June 2021
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