A Tulsa, Oklahoma dentist is under investigation for serious health violations that may have exposed as many as 7,000 patients to HIV and hepatitis.
Yahoo News reports that Dr. Wayne Harrington is under investigation by the state dental board, the state bureau of narcotics and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency after one of his patients recently tested positive for hepatitis C and HIV with no known risk factors other than having dental work performed by Harrington.
A surprise inspection conducted by the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry found numerous health code violations including expired narcotics stored in unlocked cabinets; re-using needles; allowing unlicensed assistants to administer medications; and cleaning open wounds with bleach until the wounds "turned white."
Harrington was also cited for not keeping a log of stock narcotics. One narcotic vial expired in 1993.
"During the inspections, Dr. Harrington referred to his staff regarding all sterilization and drug procedures in his office," the complaint read. "He advised, 'They take care of that. I don't.'"
The dentist's instruments were dipped in bleach but some of the instruments showed signs of rust.
Dr. Harrington was a Medicaid provider, meaning he saw an unusually high number of low-income HIV and Hepatitis patients.
The Tulsa Health Department sent letters to 7,000 of Harrington's past and present patients warning them that improper cleaning of dental instruments may have exposed them to HIV and hepatitis, and urging them to get tested free-of-charge.
A clinic operator told ABC News the dentist was referring patients to another clinic.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta says dental transmission of HIV and hepatitis is "extremely rare," mainly because the virus doesn't live very long outside of the body.
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