Dental unit waterlines may contain bacteria that could potentially cause patient infections during a dental procedure if the waterlines are not closely monitored, tested, and maintained regularly. Fortunately, dental offices can reduce the risk of infection through dental waterline treatment to maintain safe water quality levels.
Recent Dental Waterline Infection Outbreaks
A dental practice in Anaheim, California, was forced to close in 2017 because of mycobacteria in the office’s water. After receiving pulpotomies, 57 child patients were hospitalized for severe infections.
Another confirmed outbreak occurred in 2015 in a Georgia pediatric dental practice. Nine patients were severely ill after the outbreak requiring surgical excision and outpatient intravenous antibiotics.
Not only are bacterial infections potentially severe and painful, but they can be very difficult to treat. Young, elderly, and immune deficiency patients are the most susceptible to infection with contaminated water in a dental office.
CDC and ADA Recommendations for Dental Unit Waterlines
The CDC recommends that dental unit water used in nonsurgical procedures have an HPC (Heterotrophic Plate Count) purity level equal to or less than ≤500 CFU/mL. HPC is the standard metric that quantifies the relevant bacterial content in a test sample. This is why it is very important to continually test your water quality to ensure your patients are getting the highest quality of care.
Testing Your Dental Waterlines
Both the ADA and CDC recommends monitoring and testing dental unit water quality regularly to ensure that waterlines are safe for patient use. Although you may be treating your water or purging your lines, that doesn’t mean the threat is eliminated. The only way dentists can know their treatment method is effective is to regularly test their water with dental waterline testing kits.