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Oklahoma Dentist’s Patients to Receive Free Testing After Health Scare

ABC/KOCO,Oklahoma Board of Dentistry(NEW YORK) -- The Oklahoma state dental board is offering free testing to patients of an Oklahoma dentist accused of "being a menace to the public health," after a 17-count complaint revealed his poor sterilization practices put them at risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B.

More than 7,000 patients of Dr. Wayne Scott Harrington, an oral surgeon who practices in Tulsa and Owasso, received a letter from the Tulsa Health Department on Friday, informing them of an inquiry into Harrington's practice and advising them to get screened.

The dentist's alleged practices came to light after a patient who had no known risk factors -- other than receiving dental treatment in Harrington's office -- tested positive for hepatitis C.

"I could not believe it, because I had just been there February 28," Linda Grimm, a patient of Dr. Harrington's, told ABC News' Tulsa affiliate KTUL. "My worry now is my health issues that may develop."

After hearing about the infected patient on March 15, the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry conducted a surprise investigation of the dentist's practice on March 18, allegedly finding numerous sterilization and cross-contamination issues.

Investigators found two different sets of instruments – one set for patients known to have infectious diseases, and another set for patients who were not believed to have infectious diseases.

Investigators also found that the autoclave, the machine designed to sterilize dental instruments, which is meant to be tested each month, hadn't been checked in 6 years.

"We were just physically kind of sick," said Susan Rodgers, president of the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry. "The instruments that came out of the autoclave were horrible. I wouldn't let my nephews play with them out in the dirt." '

Harrington, who has been practicing for more than 30 years, may face criminal charges. The dentist voluntarily surrendered his state dental license and other permits. A formal hearing before the dentistry board is scheduled for April 19.

ABC News' Phoenix affiliate KNXV went to a home believed to be owned by Harrington in Carefree, Ariz. on Friday. A man believed to be Harrington declined to comment, and slammed the door.

Harrington and his staff told investigators that he treated a "high population of known infectious disease carrier patients," according to a 17-count complaint filed by the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry.

Drug cabinets were unlocked and unsupervised during the day, and Harrington did not keep an inventory log of the drugs, some of which were controlled substances, according to the complaint. One drug vial expired in 1993.

"During the inspections, Dr. Harrington referred to his staff regarding all sterilization and drug procedures in his office," the complaint read. "He advised, 'They take care of that. I don't.'"

Harrington allegedly re-used needles, contaminating drugs with potentially harmful bacteria and trace amounts of other drugs, according to the complaint. Although patient-specific drug records indicated that they were using morphine in 2012, no morphine had been ordered since 2009.

Rodgers called the incident a "perfect storm."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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