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Hundreds of veterans at risk of HIV and hepatitis after VA dentist failed to follow sanitation procedures

Going to the dentist is rarely a pleasant experience, but it has taken on a whole new level of horror for almost 600 veterans who recently learned that they need to get tested for blood-borne diseases, after their dentist was caught using poor sanitation procedures.

The dentist in question started working at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah, Wisconsin, last October. It was recently discovered that he was contravening the VA’s requirement that dentists use each drill bit only one time and then dispose of it. A spokesperson for the hospital said that the dentist had been bringing in his own dental burs and cleaning them with a solution of Virex, salt and a wipe, which is against their rules. Some dentists say that this procedure has been considered unacceptable for decades.

The dentist might still be putting people at risk to this day, were it not for a replacement dental assistant who noticed the outrageous practice and reported it to superiors. The dentist’s regular assistant is now being investigated for not informing them about what had been going on. The day after the report, the dentist was placed on administrative duties pending an investigation that could lead to criminal charges.

Federal employee protections prevent the name of the dentist from being released. Since he began working at the VA, he has come into contact with 592 patients. Although only 54 of them had procedures that would require bur use, such as bridges or crowns, the VA is “taking extreme measures,” and asking everyone to get tested. The hospital also says that it will treat any veterans who are found to be infected free of charge.

‘Purposeful act by a dentist who knew better’

Acting Director Victoria Brahm said, “This was a purposeful act by a dentist who knew better.” She said they have already started rotating dental assistants regularly to ensure that they do not always work with the same dentist.

The same medical center in Tomah was the focus of an investigation by Congress into poor leadership following patient deaths, unusually high opioid prescription levels, and a culture of retaliation against employees who speak out.

Even though the hospital has a questionable past, these problems are happening throughout the country. In 2013, for example, poor operating standards by a Tulsa oral surgeon put 7,000 patients at risk of HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, after rusty instruments, poorly sanitized equipment and contaminated drug vials were found in his practice following a complaint from an infected patient.

Medical errors all too common

While all of us would like to think that something like this could never happen to us, the chances are not as slim as you might think. In fact, research shows that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in our country, killing around half a million people each year.

While most of us can’t avoid going to the dentist entirely, there are plenty of steps you can take at home to keep your visits to a minimum and reduce the chances you’ll need procedures that require dental tools.

The first thing you should do to protect your teeth is give up sugar, or at least curb your consumption of it dramatically. This will bring about tremendous benefits not only for your teeth, but also for your overall health. On the occasions that you do indulge, be sure to brush your teeth thoroughly immediately afterward.

Oil pulling is a great approach to keeping your teeth and mouth in top shape, and this ancient remedy is really easy to do at home. You just need to swish coconut oil around in your mouth for several minutes. The oil is excellent at getting into the tiny areas surrounding your teeth and gums, and once there, it draws out pathogens from the mouth, which you then spit out.

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