31 Jan 2017

Children exposed to unsterilised water at dentist

10:03 pm on 31 January 2017

About 2500 children who visited a South Auckland dental clinic may have been exposed to unsterilised water, which could have contained blood or saliva from other children.

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Photo: 123rf.com

The malfunctioning dental equipment was used at the Pukekohe Intermediate Dental Clinic from 13 September 2016 until it closed on 23 January.

Counties Manukau Health Board (CMHB) said it discovered late last week that dental equipment at the clinic was "not functioning as it should be".

The CMHB chief medical officer Gloria Johnson said the suction hose was connected to the hose that provides air to get rid of debris in the patient's mouth.

As soon as the fault was flagged they closed the clinic, which was on Monday last week, she said.

Specialist public health nurses would contact parents and caregivers of children who attended the clinic to schedule appropriate screening, the health board said.

"Children who have had a procedure involving compressed air, a drill, extraction or suction, will be offered testing for blood-borne viral infections, in particular Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV. However, infectious disease specialists have indicated that the risk of cross-infection is very low as it is extremely rare for New Zealand children to have any of these conditions."

Counties Manukau Health said it was critical for parents to understand the risk was "very low."

"If we do find cases of pre-existing infection, then we will prioritise screening for those children who were treated on the same day.

"A number of children, especially pre-schoolers, will have had only had a visual examination and because they have not come into contact with the problematic equipment, may not need blood tests. Some children may also need catch-up immunisations against Hepatitis B."

Are you affected? Email Laura.Tupou@radionz.co.nz

Pukekohe Intermediate Dental Clinic is operated by the Auckland Regional Dental Service (ARDS).

The health board said an investigation was underway into the exact nature of the problem and how it occurred.

All ARDS dental clinics in the Auckland Region have now been reviewed, but the issue was only with the Pukekohe Intermediate Dental Clinic, which treats children from Pukekohe and surrounding areas.