The Arkansas Department of Health warns that approximately 100 patients who visited Dr. William Jarrod Stewart for dental treatments during a three-month period may have been exposed to "infectious materials," and it advises these patients to get blood tests.
According to a release on the department's website, Stewart worked at six different Ocean Dental locations in the state from Nov. 20, 2011, to Feb. 20, 2012. It is suspected that some of the drugs Stewart administered intravenously to patients may have been contaminated. Patients who received medicine orally are not thought to be at risk at this time.
ABC News notes that Dr. Stewart, who reportedly had a history of substance abuse, died just nine days after the three-month period that health officials are concerned about. In a statement obtained by ABC, Ocean Clinics said the following about the scare:
Although Ocean Dental is not aware of any information indicating that Dr. Stewart had any infectious disease, and no reports have been received about any of these patients contracting any infectious disease, the Arkansas Department of Health is recommending that these patients be tested as a precaution.
The cause of Stewart's death has not yet been revealed, but a health department official told the Associated Press that it was not from an infectious disease.
"We have no reason to believe that anyone is at risk of a particular illness," state epidemiologist Dirk Haselow told the AP. "We are just notifying people because this situation is highly unusual and we don't know what we don't know."
The AP also reports that authorities discovered after Stewart's death that medicine under his license had been tampered with. Patients who saw Dr. Stewart will be tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV and syphilis as a precaution.
Though the spread of disease in dental offices is considered rare, the news of Stewart follows a highly publicized case that surfaced just a few weeks ago in Oklahoma, where a dentist may have exposed as many as 7,000 patients to HIV and hepatitis by not using properly sterilized tools.
Last summer, a dentist in Colorado was found to have been reusing needles on different patients.
Worried about your next visit to the dentist? CNN offers a guide for patients who want to protect their health and check up on their dentists' office sanitation habits.