[ABC News, September 18, 2013]
A Tulsa-area dentist accused of using rusty equipment and dirty needles is responsible for the country’s first known outbreak of hepatitis C among dental patients, health officials said today.
Dr. W. Scott Harrington’s practice was shut down in March 2013 after a surprise inspection revealed major lapses in sterility practices. At least 89 of Harrington’s patients have since tested positive for hepatitis C.
“This is the first documented report of patient-to-patient transmission of hepatitis C virus associated with a dental setting in the United States,” state epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley said in a statement. “While dental procedures are generally safe, this reinforces the importance of adhering to strict infection control procedures in dental settings.”
In what appears to be America’s first outbreak of Hepatitis C among dental patients, a Tulsa, OK dentist is facing charges for using rusty and unlicensed equipment. Six years worth of patients from this dentist lined up outside the Tulsa Health Department for a free blood test. The results were: 89 positive for hepatitis C, 5 for hepatitis B, and 4 for HIV. Even the ordinary patient knows dental tools and equipment need to be kept clean.
It didn’t take the state’s dental board long to suspend the dentist indefinitely. The rusty tools and reused needles recovered from the inspection last March were all the evidence the board needed. Standard medical and dental procedures always warrant the use of clean, sterile tools and equipment per patient, as well as the disposal of needles and such. It certainly won’t cost a reputable Concord dentist like Dr. Kent Davis hundreds to buy a box of 100 needles.
Tools are among the most common ways for viruses and bacteria to get from one body to another. Think of them as hitching a ride; through dirty tools, one man’s disease may end up in someone else’s healthy body. As dentists often use edges and needles in their procedures, it’s imperative that they practice proper protocol in handling used equipment. Tools can still be cleaned but used needles must be disposed of.
Take this into account when looking for a Concord dentist. The sight of rusty equipment on the tray, let alone the unclean sight welcoming you in the office, should be every indication of poor dental practice.
(Info from Tulsa Dentist Spread Hepatitis C, Health Officials Say, ABC News, September 18, 2013)