Dr. Stephen Stein, a Denver, Colorado dentist, is accused of reusing needles on multiple patients over a 12 year period. Stein is also under investigation for prescription fraud.
The Colorado health department is telling patients who received dental care from Stein between September 1999 and June 2011 to get tested for HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Patients who should get tested are those who received IVs and those who are unsure whether or not they received intravenous medications from Stein.
In June 2011, Stein reached an agreement with the agency that regulates dentists and ceased practising. But the investigation into the reuse of needles only began in April 2012 when the Colorado State Board of Dental Examiners notified the health department. ABC Denver states the health department made the investigation public on Thursday afternoon.
According to the health department's website [PDF], needles and syringes were used to provide patients with intravenous medicines including sedatives. According to the department, these needles and syringes were used "repeatedly, often days at a time." When syringes are used, a small amount of blood remains in them and if a person has a virus that can be transmitted through blood, subsequent patients are at risk of contracting that virus.
The Colorado Department of Health and Environment sent out about 8,000 letters to the dentist's former patients. And the patients were not too pleased. One of them is Luke Crespi, a former hockey player with the Los Angeles Kings. Crespi took part in an experimental technique developed by Stein and received $50,000 of free dental work that improved his smile. Now he's worried about his health. Crespi was quoted by CBS Denver as saying, "When I found out how inexpensive a needle is, why would anyone making such a life for themselves do something so stupid?"
Syringes cost less than a dollar each.
Bonnie Wing, another former patient, said, "Shame on you, shame on you in having a professional license and serving the public and inflicting what could be life threatening to so many innocent people."
The Denver Post reports patients are also upset at the delay in notifying them about potential health problems. Although the Board of Dental Examiners knew there were problems back in June 2011, Stein's patients were not notified until earlier this week. The dental board says the reuse of needles and syringes was not the reason for the June 2011 agreement; it was for another matter.
Patients are also concerned that needles used to freeze their gums might have also been reused.
The Denver Police Department acknowledges that Stein is under investigation for prescription fraud and that may have been the "other matter" that led to Stein giving up his practice.
Currently, there is no evidence that any of Stein's patients have contracted HIV, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C.