TULSA - Dental patients in Tulsa are in shock after an investigation by state and local health officials revealed a Tulsa-area dentist potentially exposed his patients to serious blood borne viruses.
Dr. Scott Harrington has clinics in Tulsa and Owasso, and officials with the Tulsa Health Department say their investigation revealed thousands of Harrington's patients may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
UPDATE: Dr. Scott Harrington tracked down to a house in Phoenix, Arizona (http://bit.ly/14uxpqu)
RELATED: Tulsa-area patients potentially exposed to hepatitis, HIV at Dr. Scott Harrington's dental practices (http://bit.ly/dentistexposure)
One of Harrington's nearly 7,000 patients has already tested positive for hepatitis C, which tipped investigators off to Harrington's practices. *(See bottom for clarification.)
Investigators determined the clinics in Tulsa and Owasso had inappropriate infection control practices, a lack of sterilization, illegal administration of IVs by dental assistants and expired medicines.
LINK: Oklahoma Board of Dentistry's complaints against Dr. Scott Harrington (http://bit.ly/HarringtonDOCS)
2NEWS spoke with an oral surgeon and a general dentist not involved in the investigation who say there are no inspections by government agencies at dental offices unless complaints have been filed. When it comes to sterilization practices, each clinic is self-governed.
Dentists across Tulsa are reacting to the news of the investigation. General dentist Lauren Avery, co-owner Mint Dental, invited 2NEWS to watch their sterilization procedures.
"There's a dirty side and then it flows to the clean side. on ours, you can see it's red ... This is where dirty equipment (is) kept and then the blue side is where the clean instruments are kept," said Avery while showing us how her clinic properly sterilizes their tools.
"These pouches have these indicators on them that after they're sterilized they turn brown so that you know they've been sterilized," she said.
The equipment is put into a steam monitor where extreme heat is used to kill any bacteria or infection. The machines require monthly checkups.
Items that are exposed to blood are never re-used, said Avery.
In response to the allegations against Harrington, Avery said "It's embarrassing. It's not what we're taught."
Harrington has been practicing dentistry since the 1970s.
Patients at Harrington's two clinics -- 2111 S. Atlanta Pl. in Tulsa and 12806 E. 86th Pl. N. in Owasso -- since 2007 will receive letters encouraging them to be tested, though health officials say patients prior to 2007 are not out of the clear because no records were available before that year.
The Tulsa Heatlh Department's North Regional Health and Wellness Center at 5635 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. is performing free tests Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Monday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on a walk-in basis. A hotline is also available for anyone with questions -- (918) 595-4500.
Harrington voluntarily closed his practices after the start of the investigation. A hearing is scheduled before the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry in April.
*The complaint filed by the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry reports the patient who tested positive for hepatitis C also tested positive for HIV. According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, the patient is not HIV-positive. An initial HIV test was positive for HIV but a subsequent test was negative. Health officials believe the initial test may have been a false positive.
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