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Thousands Of People May Have Been Exposed To HIV And Hepatitis In Sydney Dental Clinics

12 dentists in four practices have been suspended following a NSW Health investigation.

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There has been a major dental hygiene scare in Sydney after an investigation into infection control standards at four dental clinics.

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Up to 11,000 patients over ten years are believed to have been potentially exposed to HIV and hepatitis caused by poor sterilisation, cleaning and storage of instruments.

The public health investigations began after patients made complaints to the NSW Dental Council. Audits showed dental practices in Bondi Junction, the Sydney CBD, Surry Hills and Campsie were not complying with official guidelines.

Two of the clinics involved in the health scare are the Gentle Dentist at Campsie in Sydney's south west and Sussex Street in Sydney's CBD.

The Dental Council of NSW says there is a low risk of transmission of infectious diseases for patients who had invasive procedures at the Gentle Dentist.

The owner and principal dentist, Dr Samson Chan had his registration suspended in March. Four other dentists at Dr Chan's clinics were suspended, with conditions imposed on six other dentists.

The Dental Council also suspended Dr Robert Starkenburg, who had clinics in Bondi Junction and Surry Hills.

All patients of Dr Starkenburg have been urged to see their GP for testing for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C as a precaution.

In a media conference this morning, health authorities stressed that they had no evidence of an infection occurring but that there was still a low risk for some people.

"The issue is if a patient with a blood-borne virus had attended one of the surgeries and the instruments weren't sterilised effectively... there is a small risk that the viruses might be transferred to that next patient," said Dr Jeremy McAnulty from NSW Health.

Patients who might have been affected are being contacted by NSW Health, but if you are concerned you can call the information helpline on 1800 610 344.

Watch the news conference in full:

Video: Dental Council of NSW details infection control breach that may have exposed patients to HIV and hepatitis

Alexandra Lee is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.

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