Dental unit waterlines: source of contamination and cross-infection

J Hosp Infect. 2010 Feb;74(2):99-111. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2009.03.027.


Dental chair units (DCUs) are used in the treatment of many patients throughout each day and microbial contamination of specific component parts is an important potential source of cross-infection. The quality of dental unit water is of considerable importance since patients and dental staff are regularly exposed to water and aerosols generated from the dental unit. This water hosts a diverse microflora of bacteria, yeasts, fungi, viruses, protozoa, unicellular algae and nematodes which may be contaminated with micro-organisms found in the biofilm formed due to water stagnation in the narrow-bore dental unit waterline (DUWL) tubings. The water thus contaminated, when used for various treatment procedures through dental handpieces, air/water/three-in-one syringe, etc., produces aerosols that can cause infection. The present review emphasises the risks of infection from DUWL and various water treatment procedures available to disinfect the DUWLs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Cross Infection / transmission*
  • Dental Offices*
  • Disinfection / methods
  • Humans
  • Risk Assessment
  • Water Microbiology*