Dental patients offered HIV tests over fears of contaminated equipment use
HODDESDON, UK: More than 500 patients at a Hoddesdon dental practice have been advised to take blood tests over concerns that the possible use of improperly cleaned dental equipment could have exposed them to HIV or hepatitis B or C.
The Dentality@Hoddesdon practice sent letters to 563 patients who had undergone ultrasonic dental scaling by a dental hygienist who reportedly failed to sterilise the scaler after each and every use. The independently contracted hygienist, Ekta Parikh, was dismissed after an investigation, according to the dental practice.
In a letter to the clinic’s patients, Public Health England (PHE) said that concerns had been raised about “an individual hygienist who no longer works at the practice” and about the fact that dental instruments used by this individual may have been unsterile when used in treating patients. PHE has subsequently set up a dedicated phone line to help patients who wish to seek further information and book a blood test.
“As soon as we became aware of behaviour from a hygienist that did not meet the rigorous standards we expect from our entire team, we immediately launched a full investigation, and escalated the matter to all key authorities,” said Dr Vishaal Shah, principal dentist at Dentality@Hoddesdon, in a statement.
“We understand anyone receiving these letters will have concerns and while there is an extremely low risk of exposure, all these patients are being offered detailed information, and a dedicated number to call to book an appointment for blood testing as a precaution and get further advice,” he added.
Dr Jorg Hoffmann, Deputy Director for Health Protection at PHE East of England, backed Shah’s assertion that the risk of exposure to any of these blood-borne viruses was slight. “Testing is being offered as a precautionary measure,” he said. “We know patients will be anxious about this situation and they will be supported by the NHS and PHE throughout.”
“Effective treatments are available for all blood-borne viruses, which is why it was important to identify anyone who may have been put at risk of infection so testing and treatment can be offered,” Hoffmann continued.