Have you ever found yourself sitting in the dentist’s chair thinking “that’s a lot of hoses”? Trust me, every single one has purpose. Some carry water and others air. Then I started wondering how “clean” is the water coming out of the faucet and handpieces they spray in my mouth? If you find yourself asking these questions you’re not alone. Every day millions of Americans visit their dentist for one reason or another without ever really giving the subject any thought. The truth is dental waterlines, due to the nature of their construction, can harbor tons of microorganisms and bacteria that you would not want in your drinking water let alone your dentist’s chair. According to the Organization for Safety, Asepsis, and Prevention (OSAP), colony forming units (CFU) of bacteria can reach greater than 1,000,000 CFU/mL within a few days in dental unit waterlines (DUWL) and, believe me, when that happens, do you really want your dentist spraying that water into your mouth? Me either! This build up is commonly referred to as biofilm and, if left untreated, it can cause some real problems.
Today the American Dental Association (ADA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have set the bar at less than 500 CFU/mL as the safe level for dental waterline bacterial content. If 500 sounds like a large amount to you then let me put this into perspective. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set the limit to less than 500 CFU/mL at 35 degrees Centigrade as safe for drinking water. If this still sounds scary to you then I have good news. Like everything in our world these days, technology and advancement is improving things, dentistry included. There are now many options for your dentist to treat their water and eliminate these pesky micro invaders down to less than 10 CFU/mL. From source water filtration systems to simple daily maintenance tablets, virtually bacteria free dental water is something every dentist should have.
Our health is our responsibility. If your dental healthcare professional is not treating their water, then you as the patient should ask why. This is something that everyone can get behind because, when you’re headed to the dentist’s office to get that cavity drilled out, dirty water should be the last thing you’re worried about.