563 patients at the Dentality Hoddesdon practice in Hertfordshire, United Kingdom have been told to get HIV tests after it was discovered that a scaler was not properly cleaned
The scaler was reportedly cleaned only twice a day
According to The Sun, the ultrasonic scaler should have been sterilised after each use.
The incident was uncovered in January this year after other staff at the practice realised that the affected scaler was not being put in the steriliser as often as it should.
It has not been revealed if the former hygienist, or any patients that she treated, had any infection. Nonetheless, officials say it is possible the 563 people could be infected by tainted blood.
"While there is an extremely low risk of exposure, all patients are being offered detailed information, and a dedicated number to call to book an appointment for blood testing as a precaution," Dr. Vishaal Shah, a dentist at the practice, told BBC.
A statement from Public Health England also stressed that the risk to patients was "extremely low".
Despite the letters, health officials and Dentality Hoddesdon have received backlash from affected patients for the delayed warning
"You get a letter telling you to get a HIV test and it's terrifying. They can say the risk is small all they want, but the truth is they don't actually know," one patient said, according to Express.
"The fact that it took them three months to warn everyone is disgusting. How many more people could have been infected in that time?" the patient added.
Ekta, the hygienist, was dismissed by Dentality Hoddesdon after the incident came to light
However, she is still allowed to practice under imposed conditions for the next 18 months, according to a ruling by the General Dental Council in February.
An investigation into the hygiene breach is still ongoing.