The Oklahoma Board of Dentistry has accepted the permanent surrender of the license of Tulsa oral surgeon W. Scott Harrington, DMD, following an infection scandal in which 100 of his patients tested positive for hepatitis and HIV.
More than 4,200 people have been tested at Tulsa clinics. Genetic testing confirmed that at least one patient contracted hepatitis C from a visit to Dr. Harrington's office, the first documented report of patient-to-patient transmission of hepatitis C in a dental setting in the U.S.
Harrington, who obtained his license in 1974, voluntarily stopped practicing on March 20, 2013, and left the state. A formal complaint was filed against him in spring 2013.
The dental board launched the investigation in March 2013 after being notified that health officials were looking into complaints about potential hepatitis C contamination at Dr. Harrington's practice. Investigators found numerous violations of health and safety laws, including the use of rusty instruments on patients known to have infectious diseases.
The administrative order alleges he authorized or aided unlicensed personnel to practice dentistry and take radiographs without required permits. Officials found that Dr. Harrington allowed dental assistants to perform IV sedation, which they are not trained for and are not allowed to do.
The order alleges that Dr. Harrington was a menace to the public health by practicing dentistry in an unsafe or unsanitary manner or place by not following sterilization procedures. It also alleges that he failed to comply with precautions recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
He committed "gross negligence" by deferring decisions and supervision of cleaning and infection control to dental assistants, according to the board's order. It also states he turned over all inventory and maintenance of scheduled and legend drugs to his assistants.
Former patients have filed lawsuits against Dr. Harrington. Dr. Harrington possibly exposed up to 5,000 patients to HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C, according to a tulsaworld.com story.