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Getting dental treatment can really make you sick!

07 November 2012

Sounds like scaremongering but unfortunately it is scarily true! In Feb 2012, The Lancet published an article about an 82-year old woman in Italy dying from Legionnaire’s disease attributed to Legionella infection from the contaminated water lines of a dental clinic. The lady’s home was found to be free of the bacteria while her dentist’s dental pump was found to have high levels of the rare strain of Legionella pneumophila. This was probably the first documented case of transmission of Legionnaires’ disease from exposure to Legionella pneumophila in a dental unit waterline. While Legionella is a common bacteria found in stagnant water, is it when it is in high concentrations and aerosolised that it can present a danger to patients.

What brought this to the fore was a seminar I attended this week presented by Laurie Walsh, the head of the Queensland School of Dentistry. He was presenting some very scary research that showed that some Australian surgeries had over 160x the acceptable levels of bacteria in their water lines, with the average being around 20x acceptable levels! This is bacteria rich cocktail!!

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) Guidelines state that the the water coming out of dental unit water lines must be of potable standard ie. drinking water. This means <500 CFU (colony forming units) per mL of water. And for immunocompromised patients it should be <200 CFU/mL. You could expect that normal tap water would have 20-50 CFU/mL.

While there are many procedures that should be adhered to for proper infection control, these are not always followed and the result is a buildup of bacteria in the water lines. Research has shown that it only takes 5 days to reach 200,000 CFU in the waterlines of a new dental chair! While there are dental products that can reduce the biofilm in the waterlines to acceptable levels, these products must be used weekly! And within 3 weeks, the levels became unacceptable again (,

The good news is that the Biotek ozonation system that we installed last year kills these bacteria. So we don’t have to do anything special to maintain water quality. All we do it fill the water bottles for the chair with fresh ozonated water and run it through the chairs. Honestly, I pity any dental surgery out there that does not have a water ozonation system as it means so much more work and testing to maintain acceptable water quality.

While other surgeries might have clean water, we have ozonated water that actively eliminates all known bacteria, fungi, algae, yeast and protozoa (including parasites and amoebae) and some viruses too. And we use it while preparing cavities, performing ultrasonic cleaning or while using the dental laser. We also used it to disinfect all our hands, instruments, clean surfaces and floors.

 “Ozone in water can kill bacteria and other pathogenic microorganisms by rapidly rupturing their cell membranes (within several seconds). The same effects occur when dental plaque is exposed to ozonated water as a rinse. Ozonated water has no side-effects such as unpleasant taste or tooth staining, which are characteristic of other biocides or disinfecting agents.”

Professor Laurence Walsh, University of Queensland

And it has no side-effects such as unpleasant taste or tooth staining, which are characteristic of other biocides or disinfecting agents such as chlorhexidine.

If you are serious about your health it is worth asking your dentist what they’re doing about it! If they are in Australia, ask them to speak to Tony or Paul of Mint Devices, these guys know all about ozone products for not only dental, but also medical, food preparation, domestic and commercial use. They will sort them out  and take a look at this video of Biotek ozone.

ADA Guidelines for Infection Control –