About this release

This report summaries analysis of thirty five weeks of surveillance data collected from asymptomatic patients and staff in dental settings across Scotland from 3rd August 2020 to 1st April 2021. It is part of the wider programme of Enhanced Surveillance of COVID-19 in Scotland (ESoCiS).

Main points

  • Over 10,000 patients attending dental clinics across Scotland had a COVID-19 PCR swab test when attending for dental care. In addition, over 800 staff swabs were taken in the final eight weeks of the programme.
  • 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 3rd August 2020 to 1st April 2021. Overall patient test positivity was 0.6% (95%Confidence Interval 0.5%, 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.
  • A serology sub-study was completed involving a small number of staff and patients.
  • Dental settings are a feasible setting for population surveillance to be carried out.
Table 1: Numbers of patient samples, test results and percentage positive for SARS-CoV-2 per week with confidence intervals (35 weeks from 3 August to 1 April 2021); 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 20 390 384 3 3 0.8 0.3 2.2
Week 21 - break N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Week 22 - break N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Week 23 (4 Jan - ) 255 248 5 2 0.8 0.2 2.8
Week 24 368 360 4 4 1.1 0.4 2.8
Week 25 317 310 3 4 1.3 0.5 3.2
Week 26 216 212 1 3 1.4 0.5 4.0
Week 27 216 212 2 2 0.9 0.3 3.3
Week 28 149 144 4 1 0.7 0.1 3.7
Week 29 137 135 2 0 0.0 0.0 3.7
Week 30 185 184 1 0 0.0 0.0 2.0
Week 31 180 180 0 0 0.0 0.0 2.1
Week 32 220 215 5 0 0.0 0.0 1.7
Week 33 182 181 1 0 0.0 0.0 2.1
Week 34 133 131 1 1 0.8 0.1 4.1
Week 35 (29 Mar - ) 66 64 0 2 3.0 0.8 10.4
Overall Total (Weeks 1-35) 10,415 10,117 234 64 0.6 0.5 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 personal protective equipment. 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 appointment1. Two NHS Boards (NHS Fife and NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde) piloted the programme before it was rolled out.

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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Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 28 June 2021
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