Are Dental Offices at Risk for Legionella and Waterborne Pathogens?
The water found in dental unit waterlines (DUWL) can present an ideal environment for biofilm and microbial contamination including Legionella and other opportunistic waterborne pathogens. The tools and handpieces can create aerosols and splatter, two important means of transmission of Legionella bacteria.
Dental patients may also be exposed to contamination from dental unit waterlines from backward contamination, which may occur when oral normal flora of patients enters the waterlines via suctioning of saliva by the head of the handpiece.
These threats are amplified by the difficulty related to biofilm cleaning and the prevention of regrowth in dental unit waterlines.
These pathogens must be taken seriously because they pose a health risk to patients, dentists, and hygienists in dental clinics and offices. Individuals who are elderly, immunocompromised, or smoke are at particularly high risk, so proactive Legionella and waterborne pathogen management is critical.
Given that dentists and patients are at risk from opportunistic or pathogenic microorganisms such as Legionella bacteria from inhaling droplets and aerosols, it is imperative that dental office managers or other personnel have a water management program and conduct regular testing for Legionella and other pathogens. If microbial contamination is found, remediation should be conducted immediately.