Risk assessment of dental unit waterline contamination

Prim Dent Care. 2003 Jan;10(1):5-10. doi: 10.1308/135576103322504030.


Biofilms form rapidly on dental unit waterlines. The majority of the organisms in the biofilm are harmless environmental species, but some dental units may harbour opportunistic respiratory pathogens. This paper describes a risk assessment approach to analysing the hazard from biofilm organisms contaminating dental unit waterlines on the respiratory health of both the dental team and patients. The health risk from the respiratory pathogens Legionella spp, Mycobacterium spp and Pseudomonads was found to be low. Nevertheless, in order to satisfy water regulations and comply with health and safety legislation dentists should institute infection-control measures to maintain the dental unit water at the standard of less than 200 colony-forming units per ml of aerobic bacteria.

MeSH terms

  • Biofilms*
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Dental Equipment / microbiology*
  • Equipment Contamination* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Infection Control, Dental
  • Legionella / growth & development
  • Mycobacterium / growth & development
  • Opportunistic Infections / microbiology
  • Opportunistic Infections / prevention & control
  • Pseudomonas / growth & development
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / microbiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / prevention & control
  • Risk Assessment*
  • Risk Factors
  • Water Microbiology*