State Board President: No Proof Diseases Came From Tulsa Dentist's Office
TULSA, Oklahoma - The president of Oklahoma's Board of Dentistry is speaking out for the first time since a Tulsa dentist was called a "menace to public health."
Dr. Brad Hoopes said it's important patients continue to get tested, but he thinks some of the action by the state department of health is premature.
The State Board of Dentistry said Dr. Scott Harrington may have exposed 7,000 people to hepatitis and HIV. The allegations came after one of his patients tested positive for hepatitis C, shortly after having oral surgery.
"It's not that I'm shocked, but I've never seen a case that could possibly be as serious as this one," Hoopes said.
The board is a state agency charged with protecting patients from rogue dentists. While Hoopes said he doesn't want to prevent any of Harrington's former patients from being tested, he's quick to say there's no conclusive proof the original hepatitis C patient contracted the disease in Harrington's office.
"I'm very concerned that they've been exposed, but there's no proof that any of these diseases came from his office at this time," Hoopes said.
Hoopes said he is worried the health department may have acted prematurely in asking patients to be tested.
A spokeswoman for the Tulsa County Health Department said the investigation is still ongoing, but the original patient had no other known risky behaviors, other than being exposed to the unsanitary conditions at Harrington's office. They said the decision to go public was done as a precaution so the public could protect their health.
"I see too much happening too quickly," Hoopes said.
He said the Board of Dentistry relies on the state legislature to decide what to do with its money. For example, he said, it was only a few months ago that the board had only two computers that could talk to each other. He said he'd like to see an online database where patients can check on their dentist.
"It's not really a lack of funding, it's a lack of being able to use your funds where you know they need to be used," Hoopes said. "We have to wait for the state...we have to use their computer people, we have to use their software people."
Hoopes says it's important for patients to talk with their dentist, make sure they're sterilizing their instruments, and that everyone is wearing gloves.