Out of Sight, Out of Mind Does Not Apply to Waterlines

While it is has become second nature to sterilize dental instruments, many do not apply the same standards of care to their waterlines. Did you know that untreated dental waterlines can expose patients and dental professionals alike to microbiologically-contaminated water, which has been known to cause the common cold, pneumonia, and in rare cases, Legionnaire’s disease? To add to the problem, bacteria constantly grow within dental unit waterlines, creating layers of biofilm that are tough to clean.

To test the efficacy of three commonly-used European disinfectants (Calbenium®, Oxygenal 6® and Sterispray®), French researchers analyzed their effect on complex biofilms which contained several different microbes (such as bacteria, fungi and free-living amoebae). Surprisingly, the experiment showed that none of the disinfectants completely removed bacterial biofilm from waterlines; although the disinfectants were especially active against the fungus, they were still ineffective at killing the amoebae, which meant the amoebae could still infect humans after sterilization.

Because biofilm is resistant to disinfectants and easily clings to surfaces, the key to preventing its formation is to keep the lines clean at all times. The most effective ways to keep your patients and staff safe are to:

  • Use good quality water that isn’t contaminated with microbes
  • Use a disinfectant for prevention, rather than to remove biofilm that has already formed
  • Avoid letting water stagnate by flushing lines often