Comparison between Two Types of Dental Unit Waterlines: How Evaluation of Microbiological Contamination Can Support Risk Containment

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Jan 24;16(3):328. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16030328.


Infection risk management in a dental unit waterline (DUWL) involves healthcare personnel and patients and is related to routine exposure to water and aerosols that may contain bacterial species. To improve water safety plans, maintenance, and sanitation procedures, analyses of heterotrophic plate counts (HPCs) at 36 °C, and two other microorganisms frequently associated with biofilms, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Legionella spp., were performed in order to evaluate differences in microbiological contamination between two types of DUWLs: Type A, provided by a water tank, and Type B, directly connected to municipal water. The data showed that the water supply and water safety plan differentially influenced microbiological contamination: Type A DUWLs were more contaminated than Type B DUWLs for all microbiological parameters tested, with significant changes in the percentage of positive samples and contamination levels that were beyond the limits of standard guidelines. The results obtained show how the storage tank, the absence of anti-retraction valves, and the disinfection procedures performed are the main critical points of Type A DUWLs, which confirms that dental unit management (maintenance/sanitization) is often missed or not correctly applied by stakeholders, with an underestimation of the real risk of infection for patients and operators.

Keywords: Legionella; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; dental unit waterline (DUWL); heterotrophic plate counts (HPCs); risk containment; water quality.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Biofilms
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Dental Equipment / microbiology*
  • Equipment Contamination* / prevention & control
  • Water Microbiology*
  • Water Supply*