HOUSTON - An Oklahoma dentist is at the center of a scandal, after investigators there say he may have exposed thousands of patients to HIV or Hepatitis. They found unsanitary conditions and unlicensed staff doing procedures.
"Some of the things we found were just absolutely incredible," said board representative Susan Rogers. "It's stuff that it's just basic universal precautions for blood-born pathogens that they were just not following regular protocols."
The Oklahoma Dental Board suspended Harrington's license after discovering he used rusted dental tools, cleaned with bleach.
That's a clear violation since bleach can corrode the equipment.
"The thing that was most upsetting to us, because we take a very dim view of this from our board's perspective, is he was allowing unauthorized, unlicensed personnel to do IV sedation, and that is completely unacceptable and illegal in Oklahoma," said Rogers.
In Texas, the Texas Dental Board oversees dentists and dental assistants.
In 2012, the board disciplined more than 170 dentists, dental assistants and even a handful of facilities across the state.
Actions ranged from a warning or reprimand to a suspension or even full revocation of a professional's license.
Houston Dentist Spiker Davis says the Texas Dental Board does not do routine inspections of dental offices, but will follow up on complaints. Davis said the Oklahoma case was a surprise.
"I was totally shocked because most dentists are trained in how to sterilize instruments," said Davis.
Davis sends a sample piece of equipment to an independent lab each week to test for pathogens.
"Weekly, we send that in so all dentists are supposed to do that so that we know our machines are working," Davis explained.
In his office, Davis uses hospital grade equipment, including a special dishwasher that uses high heat and chemicals to sanitize equipment. Before each treatment, he lays out the tools he uses, pre-wrapped, so patients know they're clean.
"The number one thing to look for would be rusty instruments," said Davis. "If they notice an instrument that's rusty, that's a no no."
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