Infection Outbreak from California Dental Clinic Grows to 22 Cases

September 29, 2016
Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN

Public health authorities now say as many as 22 children might have have contracted an infection after undergoing procedures earlier this year at a California dental clinic.

An Orange County (OC) dental office has been linked to an outbreak of

Mycobacterial abscessus

, a bacterium that is distantly related to other types of bacteria that cause tuberculosis and leprosy.

The

Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA) says

22 patients are showing signs of infection after undergoing the same dental procedure at a Children’s Dental Group practice in Anaheim, CA. Three of the cases are confirmed infections; the other 19 are listed as “probable.” Six of the children were in the hospital as of Tuesday.

The OCHCA says the infections came after the children underwent pulpotomy procedures to treat infected teeth.

The agency is currently awaiting preliminary test results on the suspected cases, according to multiple published reports. The OCHCA says the patients who are believed to have been infected had dental procedures between April and July of this year, and the symptoms began 15 to 85 days after the procedures.

The

M. abscessus

bacterium is commonly found in dust, water, and soil. It is known to contaminate medical devices and can cause dental abscesses and other infections of the skin, soft oral tissue, and bone. It is treated with antibiotics over a long period of time.

The OCHCA has partnered with the California Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Dental Board of California to investigate this issue.

The Orange County Register reported

this week that mycobacterium was found in the practice’s water system, which has since been shut off. The agency has expressed concern that, because of the bacterium’s incubation period and the recent discontinuation of the procedure at the clinic, more cases could be identified.

In response to the infection investigation, the Children’s Dental Group

released a statement to the Los Angeles Times

, in which the dental group says it follows “industry standards for care and uses modern equipment and instruments.” The group also said that, “

to protect the health and safety of our patients, upon seeing this we began a review and testing of our systems, equipment, water, and other elements in the office.”

Operators at the Children’s Dental Group practice have urged all patients that had the procedure during a specific time period to visit the office for a dental exam and X-rays.

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