State inspectors, who were responding to a complaint, found infection-control problems related to the cleaning, disinfection, sterilization and storage of instruments.
A dental clinic in Burien has been shut down, and former patients are being advised to consider getting tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV after state health officials found that its staff weren’t properly cleaning instruments.
The George M. Davis Dental Clinic, which has been operating since 1982, was closed after a state inspection, according to a statement issued Tuesday from Public Health — Seattle & King County. State inspectors, who were responding to a complaint, found infection-control problems related to the cleaning, disinfection, sterilization and storage of instruments.
It’s unlikely patients did contract an infection, but Public Health is advising them to talk to their health-care providers about testing as a precaution, health officer Jeff Duchin said. Infections from dental clinics are uncommon, and officials are not aware of any infections caused by the clinics’ practices, he added.
Public Health reviews all newly reported cases of hepatitis and are not aware of anyone who had an infection who was a patient at the clinic, Duchin said. Patients who had procedures such as extractions or had shots in their mouth are at higher risk, he said.
“We believe the overall risk is low, but we also believe that people should be aware of the infection control-problems so they can discuss testing with a health-care provider,” Duchin said.
The Dental Quality Assurance Commission, the state’s regulator for dentists, inspected the clinic on Aug. 2. In addition to a lack of cleaning logs and proper disinfecting materials, an investigator found evidence that a dog may have spent time in the facility, expired products and a lack of written infection-control policies or training records, according to documents from the Washington State Department of Health. The commission suspended Davis’ license on Sept. 26.
State and county officials do not know who Davis’ patients were, as he did not respond to their attempts to contact him, Public Health spokeswoman Meredith Li-Vollmer said in an email. State investigators couldn’t determine how long the infection-control problems occurred, but they believe it may have gone back years, according to Public Health.
The four-month delay since the inspection to notify patients was caused by a number of factors, Li-Vollmer said. The agency learned of the suspension of his license and the investigation on Oct. 1 and worked with the state to determine risk to patients. Davis did not respond to the investigation findings or request a hearing. Health officials tried to find alternative ways to notify patients, but they could not, she said.
Symptoms of hepatitis include abdominal pain, vomiting, jaundice and fatigue that persists for weeks or months, the statement said. Some people with hepatitis B, and most with hepatitis C, experience little to no symptoms, according to Public Health. Symptoms of HIV can include fever, swollen lymph nodes and flu-like illnesses, although some symptoms do not appear right away.
Former patients who do not have access to a health-care provider or are uninsured can contact Public Health for testing at 206-296-4949.