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Screening patients and other visitors is an essential part of COVID-19 infection prevention. Dental practices must also perform screening in compliance with Cal/OSHA regulations.

A screening form may be used but it is not required. Screening protocols must be documented in the dental practice’s written injury and illness prevention plan. There should be notices posted at entrances that individuals with a fever or feeling unwell should not enter and that masks are required to be worn inside. Patients and visitors should be informed of these requirements in advance of their visit to the practice.

All patients and visitors should check in with a designated staff person. Individuals delivering mail or packages regularly and who will not be in the office longer than a few minutes need not check in.

Staff will screen patients and visitors. Visitors who stay in the reception area can be observed for signs of illness. If a visitor will accompany a patient to the treatment area, screen the visitor the same as the patient. Service techs also will be screened if they are working in close proximity to others. Janitorial staff are not screened if they work when others are not in the practice.

Screening consists of:

  1. Ask individuals how they are feeling today and if they recently experienced any illness. Any patient who recently had COVID-19 should not be seen until more than 10 days have passed since symptoms onset or positive test.
  2. Asking individuals if they have been in close contact (less than 6ft. for 15 min. or more cumulatively in a 24-hour period) the last few days with anyone who has COVID-19 or experiencing symptoms. Healthcare workers and others who wear N95s or other respirators when working with COVID-19 patients are not considered to have close contact. If there was close contact and the individual is not fully vaccinated, the individual should not be seen until more than 10 days have passed since the close contact.
  3. Observing individuals for signs of illness. If symptoms are observed, ask questions to determine if the individual should be at the practice.

Temperature taking is not required but a dental practice may choose to do so. Asking patients about their vaccination status is not required but having the information is useful when making treatment scheduling decisions. For example, a fully vaccinated and boosted individual who has a household member with COVID-19 can keep their appointment as long as they are asymptomatic; an unvaccinated individual would have to be rescheduled. Be aware that asymptomatic individuals can be infected with COVID-19 and that both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals can transmit the virus."

A dental practice may also choose as a screening method to require the patient to provide a negative COVID-19 test result. According to the CDC, “Performance of pre-procedure or pre-admission viral testing is at the discretion of the facility. The yield of this testing for identifying asymptomatic infection is likely low when performed on vaccinated individuals or those in counties with low or moderate transmission. However, these results might continue to be useful in some situations (e.g., when performing higher-risk procedures on unvaccinated people) to inform the type of infection control precautions used (e.g., room assignment/cohorting, or PPE used).”

Request patients and visitors notify dental practice if they become ill or test positive for COVID-19 within 48 hours of their visit. Record in a patient’s record that they were screened for COVID and other ATDs.