Dentist investigation also includes dental assistants

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Reported by: Ian Silver
Updated: 4/05/2013 9:56 am Published: 4/04/2013 6:07 pm

While the spotlight has been on Tulsa dentist Scott Harrington, according to the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry, he's not the only one in that office under investigation.

Three of the 17 counts in the formal complaint against Dr. Harrington have to do with his two dental assistants, Lisa Young and Terri Valega.

The complaint says Harrington allowed them to "perform acts that only a licensed dentist may perform, specifically IV sedation on patients." It also says that he allowed them to practice dentistry without a license.

Under Oklahoma laws administering an IV is one of 12 functions that dental assistants are never allowed to do, even with a dentist in the room.

Other prohibited functions include diagnosing patients, planning a course of treatment, performing surgery and providing prescription drugs.

While the formal complaint is vague about what functions Young and Valega were performing, it did say they were doing things they could not legally do.

But state law does allow dental assistants to do certain other functions if they go through extra training and are approved to practice those functions by the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry.

For example, they can polish teeth and apply fluoride after going through a minimum of 14 hours of training, apply sealants after a minimum of 12 hours of training, administer nitrous oxide gas after a minimum of 12 hours of training, and expose dental X-rays after a minimum of seven hours of training.

Based on available documents, it's unclear whether Young or Valega were certified to perform any of those functions.

No formal charges have been filed against Harrington or his dental assistants at this point, but the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry has scheduled a formal hearing on April 19.

On Thursday, the Tulsa Health Department tested 176 people for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV. About 1,700 people have been tested by the health department in all since free testing began last week.  

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