Improperly Sterilized Dental Tools Put Patients at RiskMay 17, 2019
Good dental hygiene starts with regular visits to the dentist. This usually involves a thorough cleaning, x-rays, and a check-up with the dentist. However, this routine visit can cause potentially serious complications if the dental tools are not properly sterilized. Unfortunately, this is what happened in several dental clinics in Philadelphia and Washington state. Thousands of children may have been exposed to serious viruses, including hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV because the tools used to clean were not properly sterilized. The sterilization process is quite simple, but if technicians fail to follow the proper procedures, the tools can be contaminated, exposing children to a range of viruses.
In Washington state alone, approximately 1,250 children were exposed to hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV after receiving dental care through Neighborcare Health, which runs school-based dental clinics. During a regular review of equipment sterilization, Neighborcare Health found that handpiece equipment used for cleanings and fillings were not properly sterilized. They were disinfected with a germicide that is effective only when fully heat-sterilized. However, the appropriate heat was not used during the sterilization process required by Neighborcare Health.
Steps Taken to Prevent Future Exposure
Neighborcare Health apologized for the incident, and assured families and patients that they were taking the appropriate steps to prevent it from happening again. They immediately began re-training school-based dental staff on the proper sterilization process, ensuring that all Neighborcare Health dental assistants are following the appropriate procedures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the risk of disease transmission via dental handpieces is quite low. However, the company notified parents about the incident and let them know that anyone who wished to be screened could do so at no cost.
In Philadelphia, three dental clinics were closed after patients may have been exposed to the same viruses as the clinics in Washington. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health shut down three of the Trieu Family Dental Clinics in December 2018 after it was discovered that dental hygienists may have been using uncleaned instruments during dental cleanings. The organization sent letters to all families who visited the clinics since January 2017, notifying them about the possibility of exposure, and encouraging them to get tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV.
While the health department said that they are not aware of any infections resulting from the practices at the clinics, they do encourage all patients who visited the three Trieu clinics in Philadelphia to visit their healthcare provider and get tested. There was no mention of whether Trieu Family Dental Clinics would provide free screening for patients.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of Medical Negligence
If your health was compromised after being exposed to unsanitary dental tools, you are urged to contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton at your earliest convenience. Proper sanitation procedures should always be closely followed. We will conduct a thorough investigation to determine who is responsible for exposing you to potentially harmful pathogens. Our skilled and experienced team will secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Towson, allowing us to represent medical malpractice victims in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.