Oklahoma dentist may have exposed thousands to HIV, hepatitis risk

by Heygood Orr and Pearson

Unsafe health practices at an Oklahoma dentist’s office may have exposed thousands of patients to HIV, hepatitis, and other illnesses, health officials say. The Oklahoma State Department of Health has sent letters to about 7,000 former patients of the offices of Dr. W. Scott Harrington advising them to be tested for HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C due to health and safety violations that occurred there.

According to state and local health officials, an investigation into Dr. Harrington’s dental practice revealed that medical staff at his offices had committed a number of violations which placed the health of his patients at risk. A complaint filed by the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry accused Harrington of using unsterilized and rusty instruments, failing to keep adequate records of how dangerous drugs were used in his offices, using medication vials on multiple patients, and allowing unlicensed assistants to perform intravenous sedation on patients.

Concerns about safety practices at Harrington’s offices arose in March 2013, when a patient at one of the dentist’s clinics tested positive for hepatitis C. The test results prompted Oklahoma state health officials to launch an investigation into health and medical record keeping practices at Herrington’s offices, which uncovered the numerous safety violations that had occurred there.

In response to the investigation’s findings, Dr. Harrington surrendered his dental license and closed his offices. Harrington operated two clinics: one located in Tulsa, and another in the nearby town of Owasso.