Tulsa Dentist Accused of Infecting Patients in Unsanitary Office Surrenders License

Dentistry officeOklahoma oral surgeon Dr. Scott Harrington has seen his last patient. As of Friday, the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry voted to accept the permanent surrender of his license in light of some serious public health concerns.

The oral surgeon came under fire in march 2013, when his Tulsa office was evaluated by state and local officials. The facility was declared unsanitary, with officials citing breaches like rusted instruments, lack of infection control measures, inadequate sterilization procedures and a stock of disorganized and largely expired drugs.

The officials also discovered that Harrington allowed his dental assistants to perform IV sedation that they weren’t properly trained or certified to perform. Under dentistry board rules, this means they shouldn’t have been performing the procedure at all.

IV sedation is an increasingly popular procedure that puts patients in a semi-conscious state where they’ll remember next to nothing about the procedure and won’t feel pain. For most patients, the safe procedure eases fear of dental procedures. However, under the supervision (or lack thereof) of Harrington, it became a major health hazard.

Over 4,200 people were tested at free clinics in the weeks following the announcement. 4 tested positive for HIV, 5 tested positive for hepatitis B and 89 tested positive for hepatitis C.

Though officials say these results are fairly typical for a random sample, genetic tests confirmed that at least one of the patients contracted hepatitis C from Harrington’s office. This is the first documented report of hepatitis C being transmitted patient-to-patient in a dental setting. Up to 5,000 patients may have been exposed as a result of Harrington’s unsafe and unsanitary office practices.

The final administrated order that came from the board alleged that Harrington authorized unlicensed employees to practice dentistry and take radiographs, and declares him a public health menace for his neglect of proper sanitation and sterilization procedures. The allegations also include his inadequate record keeping for drugs in his supply.

Harrington, who hadn’t had a complaint filed against him in his 36 years of practice before 2013, stopped practicing dentistry voluntarily in March 2013 and relocated to a home in Arizona. That hasn’t stopped several former patients from filing lawsuits against him.

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