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VA Dentist Risks Veterans’ Lives with Unsafe Sterilization Procedures

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There’s always that one person who ruins it for the rest of us. The football team that lets air out of the ball to gain an advantage. The passenger in a car accident who fakes an injury to get a settlement. A college student who cheats on an exam. Even a dentist who wipes off ‘single-use’ burs and uses them again.

I’m sure that nearly every dentist in the U.S. is concerned about his or her patients’ safety and follows proper infection control protocol. But when one dentist decides to use his own unapproved ‘sterilization’ methods – and it gets reported all over the news – some consumers are going to form opinions and start to question their own dentist’s infection control procedures.

Be prepared for questions and concerns from your patients because a dentist at a Veteran’s Administration hospital was recently accused of putting nearly 600 veterans at risk by reusing burs that were not properly sterilized.

The VA is asking nearly 600 patients of its Tomah, Wisconsin hospital to get screenings for hepatitis and HIV after discovering that a dentist wasn’t using sterilized equipment, reports the LaCrosse Tribune.  The dentist, who was hired in October 2015, was allegedly reusing burs without properly sterilizing them, even though the VA requires its dentists to dispose of burs after one use. The breach in protocol was discovered after a dental assistant reported the dentist’s actions to VA officials.

VA administrators held a press conference on Tuesday and, that same day, began contacting 592 veterans who could be at risk for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, or HIV after receiving care from this dentist. Acting Medical Center Director Victoria Brahm said the dentist was using his own equipment, then cleaning it and reusing it, which violates the VA's regulations, reported WEAU TV.  The VA is offering free screenings to those veterans and will provide free medical treatment to those who test positive for an infection.

The Tomah VA says it uses sterile and disposable equipment and that the dentist, who has not been identified, has been removed from patient care. The VA has referred the case to the inspector general for assessment of any criminal charges.

Read our blog The Benefits of Single-Use Diamond Burs.

Learn more about protecting your patients and staff and take the “Safest Dental Visit” Pledge sponsored by OSAP.


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