Protecting your family from disease & bacteria at the dentist

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The health department in Tulsa, Okla., is warning 7,000 people about a local dentist's office where they could have contracted HIV, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C.

Health officials are urging clients of Dr. Scott Harrington in Tulsa to get tested. The State Department of Health says one of Harrington's patients came to them with both HIV and Hepatitis C. They said the patient has no risk factors that led them to Harrington's office.

Inspectors were in the office yesterday and found employees using dirty equipment, reusing drug vials and administering drugs without a license. Harrington has voluntarily stopping practicing as a result of the investigation.

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41 Action News spoke Dr. Connie White at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry, who said she was shocked by the story and that cases like those are unusual

"Dentists have a standard of care that they must follow in every one of their offices, so this would be a very unusual occurrence," she said.

White said that patients need to ask their dentist what they are doing to protect their health and welfare.

"People in private practices or anyone that is in practice has the autonomy to do what they see fit, so I think you have to be your own best protector of your health and I say that to all of my patients," she explained.

White said a dentist must use protective eyewear, gloves and a protective mask when they are treating patients. Patients must also pay attention to see if their dentist or doctors are washing their hands when they enter and exit the patient room.

"I think it would be really prudent to actually see your dentist unwrap sterile packages in front of you so that you know that those packages have been through a sterilization process," White added.  

White said all of the tools at the school are sterilized at 273 degrees for at least half an hour. The sterilization process gets rid of contaminants and bacteria.

White advises that if patients have questions about their dental care or their doctor they should reach out to the American Dental Association.

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