Dental Waterlines Found to Contain Bacteria

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A number of dental waterlines have been found to contain waterborne bacteria, infecting children with nontuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM). This caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue a health advisory on bacteria in the pipes of dental facilities.

Dental Waterlines and Infections

Biofilms containing bacteria can easily develop in dental waterlines. This is because the tubes are long and narrow, and go through frequent periods where water is not flowing. The standing water and biofilm buildup are how NTM and other types of bacteria form in the pipes of dental facilities.

Nontuberculosis Mycobacteria occur in water, soil, and dust. It can cause serious infections in the blood, lymph nodes, skin, or lungs. The last outbreak was in March, with two others occurring in 2015 and 2016. In 2015, a Georgia dental clinic infected 24 children with NTM. Then, a California clinic infected 71 people with NTM the following year. Children infected by NTM have experienced incision fibrosis, hearing loss, permanent tooth loss, and facial nerve palsy.

Maintaining Dental Waterlines

Maintaining pipes is essential to prevent bacteria from forming. The CDC recommends that dental healthcare providers use disinfectants to regularly clean waterlines. Also, providers should track water quality to ensure it meets the safety standards of the Environmental Protection Agency.

To ensure water is safe for patients, dental providers should work with dental equipment manufacturers to find appropriate methods to ensure and track water quality. Additionally, dental offices should train staff in monitoring and protecting water quality. Offices should train staff when they are hired, when new equipment is acquired, and annually at a minimum.

Get Certified

American Medical Compliance (AMC) is a leader in the industry for compliance, billing, and HR solutions. Learn more about preventing infections by taking AMC’s DHCP Water and Dental Line Maintenance course. Visit for more information.


NBC News (2022, November 1). CDC warns of bacteria in dental waterlines after children are infected. Retrieved from:

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