Several hundred people lined up at the health department in Tulsa, Oklahoma this past weekend to get tested for HIV and Hepatitis after their oral surgeon, Dr. W. Scott Harrington, was found to be in violation of sanitary practices.
“If I get sick, like, I could be sick for a long time,” said Marissa Smith, a former patient of the Tulsa dentist. “It just freaks me out a little knowing that this could kill me.”
Among other violations, the complaint issued by the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry alleges multiple sterilization and cross-contamination issues, including instruments that were improperly cleaned with bleach, which caused them to corrode.
Officials think the doctor treated HIV and Hepatitis patients with those instruments.
“I was very saddened to hear about this story,” said Dr. Carolyn Larsen, who along with her husband, Dr. James Larsen, runs Innovative Dentistry in Davenport.
She says in addition to wearing masks and gloves and putting plastic over instruments, their office utilizes two sterilization machines and does spore testing.
A big part of the testing process is a culture report that the office receives once a week from the University of Iowa.
The results, Larsen says, always come back negative, which means all of their sanitizing equipment is working properly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has set rules that dentists in every state must follow in regards to safety.
But, there are also recommendations or guidelines.
“Beyond that, dentists do have some freedom to decide how far they want to take that,” said Dr. Larsen.
She says there’s a reason their office goes the extra step.
“We want to do what’s best for our patients and our community and cross-contamination/sterilization plays into that,” she said.
At Dr. Larsen’s office, they also do consultations for first-time patients.
They say it’s a great way for them to be able to ask questions.
The doctors will even give a tour of their sterilization area if a patient requests.