Modern dental chair units consist of a network of interconnected narrow-bore plastic tubes called dental unit waterlines (DUWLs). The water delivered by these DUWLs acts as both a coolant for a range of instruments and an irrigant during dental treatments. The quality of water is of considerable importance because both patients and dental team are regularly exposed to water and aerosols generated by dental equipment. Studies have demonstrated that DUWLs provide a favourable environment for microbial proliferation and biofilm formation, and that water is consequently often contaminated with high densities of various microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, protozoa, viruses). The presence of high levels of microbial contamination may be a health problem for dentists and patients, especially those who are immunocompromised. The current status of knowledge on microbial contamination of DUWLs is presented, with an emphasis on the infectious risk associated with DUWLs and on the various approaches for disinfecting and protecting DUWLs.
© 2012 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.