No criminal charges filed against Tulsa dentist accused of exposing patients to HIV

by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: April 1, 2013 at 11:41 pm •  Published: April 1, 2013

The dentistry board has had only two investigators for at least two years. They're looking to potentially hire a third.

Rogers estimates that of the 2,100 to 2,300 licensed dentists in Oklahoma, there are about 1,900 practicing.

“As far as doing statewide inspections, we don't have the people,” Rogers said. “We really don't.”

Invasive procedures

Rogers said if this had been only a dentist office, the number of patients likely would have been much smaller.

But Harrington was an oral surgeon, meaning every procedure he did was invasive, she said.

“He's pulling wisdom (teeth) a lot where you have open gum tissue down to the bone with open blood vessels, and then you have those instruments that are potentially not sanitized properly,” Rogers said.

“That's what has caused this to be exacerbated. That's why I keep referring to it as being a perfect storm.”

The dentistry board's complaint dubs Harrington “a menace to public health” for his office's failure to comply with universal precautions recommended for dentistry.

Throughout its complaint, the dentistry board lists examples of ways Harrington and his staff failed to meet sterilization and infection prevention requirements.

For one, the office kept two sets of instruments — one for patients who weren't believed to have infectious diseases and another one patients that they knew did, according to the complaint.

The set for patients with infectious diseases included “multiple tools that had no sheen and red-brown spots on the metal making the instruments appear to be rusted,” according to the complaint.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that rusted instruments are porous and cannot be properly sterilized, according to the complaint.

Dental assistants

The dental assistants at Harrington's practice were allowed to administer IV sedation to patients, according to the complaint.

They also determined how much and what type of medication each patient should receive to sedate them, doing so before the dentist entered the room, according to court records.

During the inspections, Harrington referred to his staff regarding all sterilization and drug procedures in the office, saying, “They take care of that, I don't,” according to the complaint.

None of the dental assistants at the practice had permits, besides one assistant who had an “expanded duty permit for radiation safety,” according to the dentistry board complaint against Harrington.

This is far and beyond what a dental assistant in the state of Oklahoma is allowed to do, Rogers said.

Rogers said it's illegal for a dental assistant to administer anesthesia. It is a felony for anyone to practice dentistry without a license, she said.

“In this circumstance, they were injecting controlled dangerous drugs into their system, which they're not allowed to do, not at all,” Rogers said. “You know, a lot of things happen until something happens, and they go unchecked, and hopefully something good will come of this.”


by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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