About 7,000 patients of an Oklahoma dentist are being urged to get tested for HIV and hepatitis after investigators discovered that instruments weren't properly cleaned—even though the dentist knew several of his patients carried infectious diseases. Dr. W. Scott Harrington has voluntarily closed his practice and is cooperating with investigators. He could lose his license for "major violations" of the Oklahoma Dental Act at a hearing next month. "It's uncertain how long those practices have been in place," says a spokeswoman for the Tulsa Health Department. "He's been practicing for 36 years."
Investigators were checking into a hepatitis C case when they discovered numerous safety issues at Harrington's practice, including cross-contamination of instruments and a malfunctioning sterilization unit. Letters were going out to 7,000 patients who have gone to Harrington's clinics in Tulsa and suburban Owasso since 2007. The letters recommend testing for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV. Health officials say that it is rare for infections to spread in occupational settings but that tests are important. (Read more dentists stories.)