Microorganisms that have been identified in dental unit waterlines (DUWLs) are of concern because they can cause infections, especially in immunocompromised patients. This study aimed to assess the incidence of microbial contamination in DUWLs before and after intervention to reduce contamination, and to investigate the presence of coliforms, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Water samples were collected aseptically from the waterlines. The high-speed hand-piece and dental chair units were served by one distillation apparatus, which was fed by the potable tap water of four dental clinics. Different interventions were used: chlorination, flushing before clinics and between patients, draining at the end of the day, and freshly distilled water on a daily basis. There was a significant difference between the level of contamination in the high-speed hand-piece (1.5–2.7 log CFU/ml) and dental chair unit water (2.0–3.5 log CFU/ml). Coliforms (0.9%) E. coli (0.9%) and Pseudomonas (1.8%) were detected during 2008. This study indicates the need to monitor water quality regularly and prevent stagnation in DUWLs to reduce the number of viable bacteria to <100 CFU/ml. We recommend flushing the DUWL for 2 min before the first patient and for 10–20 s between patients, flushing the dental unit at the end of the day and draining it overnight to reduce the development of biofilms, and chlorination of the DUWLs.
Keywords: bacterial contamination, chlorination, dental unit waterline, flushing