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April 20, 2014

Dental groups oppose measure

TULSA — Some Oklahoma dental groups are opposing a bill in the state Legislature, proposed as a reaction to the case of an oral surgeon accused of maintaining filthy office conditions, that deals with training requirements for oral surgery dental assistants.

But the head of the state dental board says the language in the bill has been misunderstood.

The Tulsa World reports that the bill would set forth the training required to obtain a permit as an oral surgery dental assistant.

Bonnie Flannigan, president of the Oklahoma Dental Hygienists Association, says she believes the bill would allow assistants to perform intravenous sedation on patients.

In a letter to Susan Rogers, executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry, Liz Schultz, president of the Oklahoma Association of Nurse Anesthetists, said she believes dental assistants should never be able to perform IV sedation, even if it were made an expanded duty permit, similar to applying sealants and assisting in the administration of nitrous oxide.

The bill has also been opposed by the American Dental Assistants Association, The Oklahoma Dental Association and The Oklahoma Dental Hygienists Association.

— Associated Press

Rogers said there is some confusion over the bill.

“The language is being completely misconstrued and misinterpreted,” she said.

Dr. W. Scott Harrington, the oral surgeon whose two Tulsa-area clinics were shut down last March, was found to be allowing his assistants to perform IV sedation and was cited by the state Board of Dentistry. Health officials had asked that Harrington’s roughly 7,000 former patients get tested for hepatitis C, hepatitis B and HIV, and eventually determined that a patient had contracted hepatitis C from one of his clinics — marking the nation’s first transmission of the illness between patients in a dental office.

Rogers said the bill does not determine what assistants are allowed to do. They would still not be allowed to practice dentistry, and many of their tasks would require direct visual supervision.

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