News of rogue Tulsa-based oral surgeon prompts ADA infection control statement

March 29, 2013
Issue 3

In light of recent news reports concerning a Tulsa, Okla.-based oral surgeon, the American Dental Association (ADA) has made a statement of recommended procedures and also noted that there may be heightened interest in infection control procedures.

In light of recent news reports concerning a Tulsa, Okla.-based oral surgeon, the American Dental Association (ADA) has made a statement of recommended procedures and also noted that there may be heightened interest in infection control procedures.

According to news reports, the Tulsa Health Department is currently warning 7,000 patients of a local dentist's office that they could have contracted HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C from poor sterilization practices.

ABC news reports that Dr. Wayne Harrington, an oral surgeon with a practice in Tulsa, Okla., is being investigated by the state dental board, the state bureau of narcotics and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency because one of his patients recently tested positive for hepatitis C and HIV without known risk factors other than receiving dental treatment.

[Read more about the story here]

Regulations for dental office inspections are determined on a state by state basis by the state dental board.

The ADA has long recommended that all practicing dentists, dental team members and dental laboratories use standard precautions as described in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Infection Control in Dental Health Care Settings guidelines.

Studies show that following proper infection control procedures greatly reduces risk to patients to the point of an extremely remote possibility.

Infection control procedures are designed to protect patients and health care workers by preventing the spread of diseases like hepatitis and HIV. 

Examples of infection control in the dental office include the use of masks, gloves, surface disinfectants and sterilizing reusable dental devices. Additionally, dental health care providers are expected to follow procedures as required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration:

Before you enter the examining room, all surfaces, such as the dental chair, dental light, instrument tray, drawer handles and countertops, have been cleaned and decontaminated. Some offices may cover this equipment with protective covers, which are replaced after each patient.

Non-disposable items like the dental instruments are cleaned and sterilized between patients. Disposable items like needles or gauze are placed in special bags or containers for monitored, proper disposal.

Infection control precautions also require all dental staff involved in patient care to use appropriate protective garb such as gloves, masks, gowns and eyewear. After each patient, disposable wear like the gloves and masks are discarded.

Before seeing the next patient, the members of the treatment team scrub their hands and put on a new pair of gloves.