Safe dental water should be a priority at every practice

Sponsored by Hu-Friedy

The quality of dental unit water has been a topic of discussion and research for many years. Indeed, outbreaks of infection linked to the dental waterline can be a health risk for patients and a liability risk for dental practices.

It’s the ethical and professional responsibility of dental practitioners to provide safe dental water to their patients, and manufacturers, such as Hu-Friedy, make it a priority to keep them informed and provide optimal solutions for helping clean and maintain water used at their dental practice. Hu-Friedy offers a number of educational resources, including live continuing education courses, articles, on-demand webinars, step-by-step guides and customer service support. (To view their online resources, please visit: http://www.hu-friedy.com/education/infection-prevention-resources.)

According to the 2003 CDC Guidelines, “Dental unit water that remains untreated or unfiltered is unlikely to meet drinking water standards (303-309).” Dentists have several options for ensuring safe water standards at their dental practice, such as the following:

  • Filtration devices with in-line filters to remove bacteria before water enters the handpiece or other devices attached to the waterline.
  • Independent reservoirs with chemical germicides or cleaners to remove microbial accumulations and prevent attachment of microorganisms, such as Hu-Friedy’s Team Vista Dental Unit Waterline Cleaner.
  • Devices or cartridges that provide a slow release of chemicals.

Whichever method is chosen, it is critical to monitor waterlines on a periodic basis to ensure their efforts and product are working.

Common misconceptions
Contrary to what some dental professionals may realize, ALL dental waterlines – regardless of how new or old they are – must be cleaned and maintained. According to the CDC, “Research has demonstrated that microbial counts can reach <200,000 colony-forming units (CFU)/mL within 5 days after installation of new dental unit waterlines (305), and levels of microbial contamination <106 CFU/mL of dental unit water have been documented (309,338). These counts can occur because dental unit waterline factors (e.g., system design, flow rates, and materials) promote both bacterial growth and development of biofilm.”

Additionally, it’s essential for dental offices to understand that ensuring their source water meets CDC standards is a two-step process that involves both cleaning and maintenance. To help prevent waterborne organisms from attaching, colonizing and proliferating on the inner surfaces of water tubing, a complete dental unit waterline system should be used. Complete systems to control the quality of water delivered to patients include both periodic cleaning AND routine maintenance.

The CDC offers several steps to help dentists ensure the safety of their dental water:

  • Use water that meets EPA regulatory standards for drinking water.
  • Consult with the dental unit manufacturer for appropriate methods and equipment to maintain the recommended quality of dental water.
  • Follow recommendations for monitoring water quality provided by the manufacturer of the unit or waterline treatment product.
  • Discharge water and air for a minimum of 20-30 seconds after each patient from any device connected to the dental water system that enters the patient’s mouth.
  • Consult with manufacturer on the need for periodic maintenance of anti-retraction mechanisms.

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