by Kate Newton
As if a trip to the dentist isn’t already painful enough, about 7,000 patients received notice that they should be tested for HIV and hepatitis after visiting a dental practice in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Described as the “perfect storm” for infection by Susan Rogers, the executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry, the clinic is being investigated of wrongdoings for all incoming patients since 2007. W. Scott Harrington, the main practitioner, surrendered his license shortly after health officials initiated the investigation - but despite being accused of 17 health violations, may still walk away with nothing but a rap on the wrist.
Rogers described the state of the practice, courtesy of CNN:
"Many of (the) procedures were invasive and exposed patients' blood, tissue and bones, and investigators discovered that these procedures were being carried out in an unsanitary environment.
The instruments that came out of the autoclave were horrible," Rogers said, referring to a device used to sterilize tools. "I wouldn't let my nephews play with them out in the dirt. I mean, they were horrible. They had rust on them."
Furthermore, at Harrington's office, the autoclave was not being used properly, the complaint states. There should be a monthly test to ensure the autoclave is properly sterilizing the equipment, but no test had been done in at least six years, the complaint says.
According to the document, when the dentist was asked about the sterilization and drug procedures in his office, he replied: "(My staff) takes care of that, I don't."
Unsurprisingly, said staff lacked permits to even practice as dental assistants.
If this wasn’t already every dentophobe’s worst nightmare, the Oklahoma Health Department reminded patients that while they may not have experienced symptoms of hepatitis C, hepatitis B or HIV since visiting the practice, these illnesses often do not fully surface until several years after they’re contracted.
Any patients that test positive for hep C will be the first cases ever documented that resulted from a dentist’s office, Rogers said.
The Oklahoma Health Department is urging any patients that took a turn in Harrington’s chair over the past seven years to be tested for HIV and hepatitis (which they’ll do for free), so if you got a toothache during a vacation in Tulsa and can’t quite remember where you got that taken care of, hey, better safe than sorry.