(WUSA9/AP)-- About 7,000 people who'd been patients of a suburban Tulsa, Oklahoma, dentist in the past six years may have been exposed to HIV and hepatitis, health investigators say after inspecting his practices.
The team from the Oklahoma board of dentistry found assistants performing techniques that only a dentist should, such as IV sedation. They also say sterilization procedures and needles were handled improperly, and medications in cabinets were expired.
"I will tell you that when ... we left, we were just physically kind of sick," said Susan Rogers, executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry. "I mean, that's how bad (it was), and I've seen a lot of bad stuff over the years."
The state health department will offer free HIV and hepatitis testing to the thousands of patients who visited the offices of W. Scott Harrington.
They say such an egregious case is exceedingly rare, and Vienna, Virginia dentistDr. Alex Naini, D.D.S. agrees.
She tells WUSA 9 that there are basic safeguards patients can look for in any dental office:
1) The dentist and assistants should don knew gloves when entering a patient's area; those gloves should be changed if the staff leaves the area and returns.
2) Instruments should be sealed in plastic and opened in front of a patient, not already laid out open, on a tray.
3) Even in a busy practice, one patient should not immediately follow another in the dental chair. Dr. Naini says sanitation of the workspace takes at least 10 minutes between patients.