By Katharine Lackey and Michael Winter, USA TODAY
Health officials are urging 7,000 patients of an Oklahoma dentist to be tested for potential exposure to HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C over the past six years.
The possible exposure happened at the dental practice of Dr. W. Scott Harrington in Tulsa, Okla., and Owasso, Okla., and officials are sending letters to 7,000 patients who have visited the facilities since 2007, according to a news release from the Tulsa and state health departments.
Harrington, an oral surgeon who was licensed since the 1970s, surrendered his credentials March 20 and discontinued his practice after health investigators discovered alleged health and safety violations. He is cooperating with authorities.
The health departments noted that transmissions of these diseases in this type of occupational setting are rare. A state epidemiologist stressed that "this is not an outbreak."
According to the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry, the investigation so far has uncovered "numerous violations of health and safety laws and major violations of the state dental act."
KOTV cites 17 violations:
"Charges include: a patient testing positive for HIV and Hepatitis C; the dental practice being unsafe, unsanitary and lacking of sterilization checks; committing gross negligence related to decisions related to the dental health care of patients; practicing dentistry without proper display of licenses and certifications; violation of provisions of the State Dental Act by failure to keep a suitable record of dangerous drugs; unlawful practices in authorizing dental assistants to practice dentistry; and having open vials or medication and unsanitary dental materials in an unclean environment."
Alleged violations include allowing assistants to administer IV sedation, which only a licensed dentist may perform, and keeping incomplete drug logs and expired medications, the Tulsa World reported. Inspectors found an unlocked, disorganized drug cabinet with a vial that had expired in 1993.
Susan Rogers, the executive director of the dental board, called the allegations "very, very unusual." She told KOTV that Harrington handled a high volume of patients with hepatitis or HIV. She said Harrington had no previous complaints.