Local dentist stresses communication following HIV, hepatitis scare; expects worry will increase

TULSA - Area dentists say they've received dozens of worried patient phone calls in the last week following the state's announcement a Green Country oral surgeon had grossly violated a number of sterilization practices.

Hundreds have gathered outside local health centers to receive HIV and hepatitis testing after the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the Tulsa Health Department held a joint press conference urging an estimated 7,000 patients of Dr. W. Scott Harrington's dental practices in Tulsa and Owasso to get checked.

READ: 'Tulsa-area patients potentially exposed to hepatitis, HIV' (http://bit.ly/dentistexposure)

Dr. Hugh McDougall, a dentist and licensed psychologist in the area, says he fully expects the recent panic to intensify patients' anxiety surrounding the dentist, possibly to the point of skipping important check-ups. 

"If they're already fearful, I think this could exacerbate those fears. I would prompt that person to talk with their dentist," McDougall said.

Kevin Henry, an editor for two industry magazines, Dental Economics and Dental Assisting Digest, said dentists should not be afraid to be open to patient questions.

"Patients should not be worried at all about asking the dentist for a tour of their practice," said Henry.

Henry also advises patients to ask about the office's sterilization process.

"Patients should not be afraid to ask their dentist anything and conversely the dentist shouldn't be afraid to tell the patient anything as well," said Henry.

The Oklahoma Dental Association also advises patients to ask many questions.

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