Dentist Offices Not Routinely Inspected, Oklahoma Official Says - NewsOn6.com - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - KOTV.com |

Dentist Offices Not Routinely Inspected, Oklahoma Official Says

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Companies that sell sterilization machines require a monthly test. Companies that sell sterilization machines require a monthly test.
No agency is checking or reporting if a dentist doesn't follow the test requirements -- it's simply up to the ethics of each dentist. No agency is checking or reporting if a dentist doesn't follow the test requirements -- it's simply up to the ethics of each dentist.
Health officials will turn over the results of their final investigation to the Tulsa County District Attorney, who could possibly charge Harrington and members of his staff with multiple felonies. Health officials will turn over the results of their final investigation to the Tulsa County District Attorney, who could possibly charge Harrington and members of his staff with multiple felonies.
TULSA, Oklahoma -

A dentist practicing in Tulsa County has been accused of using unsafe and unsanitary practices, which prompted the Oklahoma State Department of Health to issue letters to 7,000 patients of Dr. W. Scott Harrington, urging them to be tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Many viewers have asked if the health department or other agencies routinely inspect dental facilities and if Harrington could face criminal charges.

3/28/2013 Related Story: Tulsa County Dentist May Have Exposed 7,000 Patients To HIV, Hepatitis

No agency is required to do routine inspections at dentist's offices or doctors' offices, according to officials.

Inspections are done on a complaint basis, meaning someone complains, the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry investigates, and has the authority to bring in other agencies like the health department and the DEA, which was done here.

If Harrington allowed dental assistants to administer IV sedation to patients, those assistants could be charged with practicing dentistry without a license, which is a felony.

The dentist himself could be charged with allowing unauthorized practices, also a felony.

Dental assistants are lawfully allowed to do little. They are required to get a permit to do X-rays, polish teeth and apply sealants, but there is no such requirement for sterilization, just the dentist's supervision.

That's why the idea of an assistant administering IV drugs to patients is so outrageous to the Dental Board.

"Allowing an assistant who's never been to school or training is unheard of and is completely unacceptable," executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry Susan Rogers said in a Friday phone interview.

Read The Oklahoma Board Of Dentistry's Complaint Against Dr. Harrington

Companies that sell sterilization machines require a monthly test. Tests are done with a little strip of paper, which has to turn a certain color and if it doesn't, the company gives the dentist another unit while the original one being fixed.

No one is checking or reporting if a dentist doesn't follow the test requirements -- it's simply up to the ethics of each dentist.

The Dental Board said Harrington's office hadn't done the test in years.

"That doesn't mean the machine wasn't working," Rogers said. "It means they were not doing the test to make sure it was working, ever."

The board said Harrington's office had two sets of equipment -- one for patients they knew had infectious diseases and one for those who didn't. Each set was cleaned differently. The one used on the infected patients were dipped in bleach, which made instruments corrode, becoming rusty and porous, which made it nearly impossible to sterilize them later.

Dentists are required to do continuing education classes, but there are no tests. Dentists interviewed by News On 6 said they would like to see continuing competency, where they are actually tested on their skills.

The state board said its office is getting tons of calls from people with new and different complaints and assure, there will be changes in dental operations in the future.

They said the fact Harrington did oral surgery makes it worse, because there's more blood and bone exposure than during routine dental procedures.

Calls to Harrington's attorney went unreturned.

All disease testing urged for Harrington's former patients will be done for free at the Tulsa Health Department's North Regional Health and Wellness Center located at 5635 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Services will be provided on a walk-in basis starting on Saturday, March 30 from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. and will resume on Monday, April 1 from 8 a.m.–6 p.m. In addition, the health department has set up a hotline at 918 -595-4500 for people with questions about this notification or hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV.

After testing is underway and the exposure or non-exposure to patients is properly assessed, health department officials and other agencies will turn over the results of their investigation to the Tulsa County District Attorney, who could possibly charge Harrington and members of his staff with multiple felonies.

 

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