Dental instruments

Dentist May Have Exposed 7,000 Patients to HIV & Hepatitis

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Have you ever asked your dentists what they do to prevent infection? You should. Sterilization of dental instruments is a critical step in preventing infection and cross-contamination.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, health department officials are concerned that thousands of their local dentist’s patients may have been exposed to potentially fatal infections including Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.

Dr. W. Scott Harrington, an oral surgeon with over 35 years of practice, is now being investigated by Oklahoma’s dental board, narcotics bureau and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency after one of his patients tested positive for Hepatitis C and HIV without known risk factors other than receiving dental treatment.

Dr. Harrington allegedly didn’t clean his instruments properly; some are bleached while others are rusty. Officials say he routinely re-used needles and vials, contaminating drugs with potentially deadly bacteria and trace amounts of other drugs. Some of his medications were found to be twenty years past their expiration date. He has also allowed unlicensed dental assistants to decide which medications to administer, and how much was appropriate.

In a letter written to almost 7000 of his patients, authorities said “Although we do not know whether you were personally exposed to blood-borne viruses, there is a possibility that you may have been exposed to infectious material. As a precaution, we are recommending that you get tested for hepatitis C virus, hepatitis B virus, and human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV).”

Dr. Harrington has voluntarily given up his license, closed his practice and is co-operating with investigators.

Next time you visit your dentist’s office, be in the lookout for red flags like old or rusty instruments. Also, remember to check if your dentist and dental assistants wear and change their gloves.

If you have any questions about our Dr. Michael’s sterilization procedures or if you would like to see our sterilization facilities, please let us know and we’ll be happy to show you around.