Sydney, Australia – Nearly 11,000 Australians are being urged to visit their doctors for HIV and hepatitis screening after several dental clinics were found with “significant” safety breaches.
New south Wales Health explained that 12 dentists have been accused of poor cleaning practices in that their equipment was not cleaned and sterilized properly. The investigation came after a complaint last November, which has since led to subsequent investigations.
Shane Fryer of the Dental Council of NSW said that the investigations revealed significant safety breaches at several clinics.
To date, six dentists have been suspended and another six have had conditions placed on their licenses. One of the suspended dentists, Robert Starkenburg, says he had been “behind the times” about cleaning and sterilization but since being investigated, has adopted new protocols.
“I don’t infect my patients but I didn’t have a spick and span office like the new guys,” said the 75-year-old. “But I’m spikko now.”
Approximately 11,000 Australians have been advised to get blood tests for Hepatitis A, B and C as well as HIV as precautions. Jeremy McAnulty, NSW Health Direction of health protection says that so far, no cases have been reported and that the risk of transmission was low. The main concern was with patients who had undergone invasive procedures.
“It’s important to stress we have no evidence of infection at this point, that no transmission has occurred,” he said.
“But the experts have been concerned in light of the reports of the problems with infection control at these facilities, that a risk is there.
“We are hopeful there won’t be transmissions and the risk is thought to be low but it’s best for people to know their status because there are treatments available for infections.”
The concern was that the instruments were not being properly cleaned and sterilized after each use, increasing the risk of transmitting blood-borne disease into the gums.
“Audits showed that there were some problems with the cleaning, sterilization and storage of instruments in that it was not being done in compliance with the guidelines of the dental board of Australia,” said Shane Fryer of the Dental Council of NSW.
“I want to assure the public that there are stringent guidelines in place in relation to infection control, that dental practitioners must adhere to.
“Failure to do so will result in disciplinary action and possible deregistration.”