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Waterline contamination: Will I get sick from going to the dentist?

Some patients may be concerned by local news reports or television news magazine features about contaminated water being used in dental treatment. OSAP would like to provide you with some facts and encourage you to speak with your dentist about your concerns.

Recently, there's been a lot of talk about biofilm in dental waterlines. Biofilm is a thin layer of microorganisms that accumulates on the inside surfaces of tubes and containers that hold or transport water. Biofilm exists just about everywhere you find fluid in contact with a solid surface. For example, you'll find biofilm in shower heads, faucets, soda fountains, humidifiers, and even garden hoses.

Just as biofilm exists in the plumbing in your home or office, it also is present in the waterlines of the dental office that connect the highspeed handpiece (the "drill"), the air/water sprayer, and the ultrasonic scaler to the water supply.

Most of the tiny organisms that live in these lines are harmless to healthy people. Nonetheless, OSAP supports a number of steps that your dentist can take to lower the numbers of these microorganisms in dental treatment water.

Rather than using the city water supply, perhaps your dental office uses a separate reservoir to supply the water used for treatment. Your dental team also may run chemicals through the lines to help break up and remove the biofilm, or to inactivate some of the organisms that live in it. Some dentists place small-pore filters in the waterline to trap microorganisms so they won't be released with the flowing water. Perhaps your oral surgeon even uses a special water bottle and lines that can be sterilized between uses on a patient.

A number of options for improving the quality of dental water are available today. Your dentist can consult the dental unit manufacturer to determine the best way of treating his or her waterlines.

Dentists are healthcare professionals. They are concerned not just with their patients' oral heath, but with their overall health. They also have a responsibility to provide safe treatment and to reduce their own risk of infection through the delivery of dental care.

We encourage you to speak with your dental healthcare provider and raise any questions or concerns you may have about dental water quality or any of the other infection control procedures that take place in the dental office.

 

 

 

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