For as many as 7,000 dental patients in suburban Tulsa, Oklahoma, Hepatitis and HIV may be a real threat. An investigation had revealed that their dentist might have exposed his patients to them when he performed procedures in unsanitary conditions. In addition, according to Susan Rogers, the executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry, he allowed people who were unlicensed and unauthorized to intravenously sedate patients that needed it.
According to Rogers, this practice is unacceptable and illegal in Oklahoma. For many, however, this isn’t the worst thing that was going on in Harrington’s office.
W. Scott Harrington voluntarily stopped practicing dentistry after the city and state health departments noted many violations. Investigators are not sure if any infections resulted from the unsanitary conditions, but they are urging all of Harrington’s patients to get tested for HIV and Hepatitis.
According to Rogers, the office was the perfect situation to breed many infectious diseases. Dental assistants for Harrington were performing procedures that only the dentist is allowed to do. Additionally, the sterilization procedures that are the standard for Oklahoma dentists were not followed. Needles were also not handled properly.
At this time, the state department is getting in contact with about 7,000 patients and advising them to be tested for Hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV. The health department alerted the dentistry board of a possible Hepatitis C infection from Harrington’s office. This alert started an investigation that found that the practice had many serious health violations.
Harrington has been an oral surgeon that has been in practice for 35 years. The office appeared clean, but in the cabinets, there were no precautions taken against blood-borne pathogens. According to Rogers, Harrington had a larger than usual number of hepatitis and HIV patients, which put all patients at risk when proper sterilization procedures were not followed.
Since Harrington accepted Medicaid for oral surgery, he would often wind up performing invasive procedures that exposed patients bones and blood on many patients that would go to the emergency room for problems. Rogers also reports that many of the instruments that were used regularly had rust on them, and nothing had been sterilized.
Due to the higher than usual number of patients that Harrington had who had HIV and hepatitis B and C, an estimated 7,000 of his other patients from 2007 and on will be encouraged to seek testing to ensure that they have not been infected with these illnesses. Since they are unusually severe, and it is highly possible to have these diseases for many years before showing any symptoms, it is crucial that patients find out if they have been infected so they can seek treatment as soon as possible.
While many investigators have said that transmitting hepatitis and HIV in a professional dental or oral surgery environment are exceptionally rare; the conditions in this office were so severe, patients may be at an increased risk for having contracted something.