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    The challenges of waterline disinfection

    Why the latest improvements in dental waterline disinfection are so critical for dental practices.

    Last month I had the opportunity to meet with a company that is pursuing technologies that promise to change the game in their category. Water disinfection is an area I never thought I would get excited about but walked away incredibly impressed with the level of genius of Owen Boyd and Al Dube.

    I sat down with Owen Boyd, an expert on dental water disinfection and treatment technologies. Mr. Boyd has 25 years of water treatment experience. We discussed the challenges with dental unit waterline disinfection and breakthrough technology solutions that are on the near horizon.

    Trending article: How clearn are the waterlines in your office?

    Why do dental unit waterlines (DUWL’s) require disinfection?

    This is an issue of protecting patients and staff. Serious illness from cross-contaminated DUWL’s is no longer just a theoretical possibility. In the last two years alone there have been cases in California and Georgia where large numbers of patients contracted serious infections traced back to contamination in the waterlines. In Italy in 2011, a patient contracted a fatal case of Legionnaire’s disease from water in her dentist’s office. 

    Besides what goes directly into the patient’s mouth, the water from a high-speed drill creates a four-foot diameter circle of potentially contaminated mist around the doctor, the patient and the hygienist. Masks are good at stopping fluids, but not bacteria. If that water is loaded with bacteria, you and your staff are breathing the organisms suspended in that mist.

    Trending article: 10 questions you need to ask about infection control

    Why are dental unit waterlines such a disinfection challenge?

    The environment of a dental unit waterline, being essentially a smooth, small-diameter hose that operates at a warm temperature and at a low flow rate, is a near-perfect setting for accelerated bacterial growth—so perfect that bacteria counts double every 15 minutes. Meaning, even if your lines are safe at the beginning of the day, they could be thousands of times unsafe by the end of the day without proper treatment.

    The other difficulty is that bacteria form biofilms on smooth surfaces like the inside of waterlines. For lack of a better definition, the biofilm becomes a sort of housing that prohibits many disinfectants from destroying the bacteria colony inside. 

    Aside from being an obstacle to disinfection, biofilms can clog the lines. Certainly, it’s not good when a patient is sitting in a dental chair and you have no water flow.


    Next: What the future holds...

    Owen Boyd
    As founder SolmeteX, where he served as CEO from 1994 to 2010, Mr Boyd is credited with pioneering amalgam separation in dentistry. He ...


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