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Dental unit waterlines: Trickier than you think

Jan. 9, 2023
Hopefully your dental practice has protocols in place for DUWL maintenance. But are you following all the best practices to ensure everything is always sterile?
Meg Kaiser, Associate Editor

Do you feel like you have dental unit waterline (DUWL) cleaning down to an art? Can you guarantee that none of your patients will become sick from the water in your DUWLs? One dental hygienist who was convinced she had cleaning and maintenance mastered admits that even she was missing some important steps. Another says she was shocked as a new employee to encounter some of the filthiest DUWLs she had even seen.

There have been illnesses linked to DUWLs through the years, including recent pediatric cases that are currently under investigation. This and other issues prompted the CDC to make a rare move and issue a statement on October 31, 2022, about the importance of DUWL maintenance.   

Proper DUWL cleaning, maintenance, and upkeep cannot be stressed enough, especially since the onset of the pandemic, which placed DUWLs in the spotlight. Here we share resources to help you keep your DUWLs in pristine condition so you can keep everyone safe. Many of you may believe you’ve already got the process down. But after reading these articles from your peers, you may realize you're missing some important steps.

Passing the dental unit waterline test

Have you ever made any of your patients sick? How do you know for sure? Amanda Hill was surprised at what she was missing regarding dental unit waterline maintenance.

4 DUWL cleaning steps you need to know

Dental waterline safety

Nicole Backes feels better knowing that her water—whatever the source—has been sterilized or thoroughly cleaned before she consumes it. She says we all have our personal standards for safe drinking water, so why don’t we all ensure that safe water is coming through our dental water lines?

How to begin with DUWL safety

Waterline warning

The recent news about failed waterlines and their harm to patients affected Amanda Hill on a personal level—and she wants to make sure your practice is doing what it needs to to protect everyone.

Dental practices: Listen up!

Gross waterlines have new employee concerned

This new dental employee found a great office, except for one thing: they don't flush the waterlines regularly. She's understandably concerned. But how can she approach the subject without getting a colleague in trouble?

Here's the advice she received

A practical guide for testing dental unit waterlines

Waterline safety has been a concern for decades in dentistry, and disease outbreaks connected to waterlines have made this issue more prominent. Compliance is vital to both patient and clinician safety. In this three-part series, Noel Kelsch goes through testing, how to get back on track with your testing, shares a case study about DUWLs, and what to do when your DUWLs fail testing.

Practical guide part 1
Practical guide part 2
Practice guide part 3

It's such a concern, the CDC recently issued guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a "very unusual" health advisory to the dental community following outbreaks of nontuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM) infections in children. The Health Alert Network (HAN) Health Advisory was sent following a cluster of suspected NTM infections in March 2022 in children who received pulpotomies in pediatric dental clinics where the dental treatment water contained high levels of bacteria.

Rare health advisory to dental community

About the Author

Meg Kaiser | Associate Editor

Meg Kaiser is an associate editor in Endeavor Business Media’s Dental Division. She works on DentistryIQ.com, RDH eVillage and RDH Graduate newsletters, Dental Economics magazine, and RDH magazine, and has for nearly 20 years. She knew she'd caught the dental bug when she began preaching oral-systemic health to everyone she met. Contact her at [email protected].