“With another outbreak, I need to ask: Is your water safe?”
On October 31, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control released a Health Advisory Network Alert concerning dental unit waterlines (DUWLs). A third cluster of patients has been identified to have been sickened by contaminated dental procedural water in the U.S. We don’t know where or how many patients are affected, but as those details emerge, it’s sure to get even more coverage.
Are Your Waterlines Ready?
The only way to know if your DUWLs are safe is to test them. The EPA sets the standard for safe water at under 500 CFU/ml. It’s estimated that 60-70% of offices are doing something to treat their waterlines, but for some reason, only 10-15% are testing to ensure their protocol is working. That’s like assuming your autoclave is working because the timer still dings.
Does Your Office Have a Waterline Warrior?
With any successful program, you need a leader to ensure the tasks get done and done right. Why not appoint a Waterline Warrior for your practice? National human resource leaders say employees want opportunities to feel valued and purposeful. What better way to feel like an integral part of the team than to keep patients and co-workers safe?
Safe water is as easy as one, two, three.
If you are just beginning this waterline journey, you will need to shock your lines with a high-level antimicrobial to blast through the biofilm that has built up in your lines. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, as products differ greatly. Some offices set up a protocol to shock monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually to stay ahead of the biofilm. But at the very least, you should shock if you are switching products to remove any residue or if your test reveals over 200 CFU/ml.
Select a low-level antimicrobial to slow down the growth of biofilm between shocking. There are lots of great products on the market. Tablets and straws are the most popular. Be sure to select one and use it properly. But remember, biofilm is a beast, so step three is key!
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you will surely pass if you are treating. Testing is the only way you know and prove you are delivering safe water to your patients. Testing is easier and faster than ever! ProEdge Dental Water Labs offers various options for testing DUWLs, such as the classic R2A method, convenient in-office QuickPass, or cutting-edge Flo method with same-day test results. Testing (and documenting) will give you the confidence that you are delivering safe care, and you’ll be able to prove it! Regardless of which method you choose, test your lines monthly when you start testing and then quarterly once you get consistent passing results. My office likes to do a mail-in Flo test once a year for third-party verification and the in-office QuickPass the other three times. Does the idea of setting up a system feel overwhelming? Call ProEdge Dental Water Labs, and one of their safe water specialists will get you on the right track.
When You Pass Your Test, Let Patients Know
Like anything worth doing well, infection control takes a little dedication. Put your efforts to good use. Post your passing waterline tests on your Facebook page, have your social media savvy team members make an Instagram Reel testing water, or put pictures up on your website. Get creative. That way, when the news breaks about this next infection outbreak, your patients know that your office is safe.
Written by Amanda Hill, RSDH, RDH
Article submitted by ProEdge
Published in Catalyst – Q2 2023.
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