Safe water to drink, bathe, cook and wash our clothing in is something most of us take for granted. Using clean water in your dental practice can be taken for granted as well!
On December 14, 2016, the city of Corpus Christi issued a city-wide water notice to all residents to discontinue the use of all tape water until testing showed it was safe. Earlier that afternoon, the city received a call about dirty water in the downtown area. Crews investigating traced it back to two industrial companies.
It appears that a backflow preventer was inadequate or failed all together. Due to this, it was recommended that all residents use bottled water for all of their needs. In addition to drinking and food preparation, they should use bottled water for bathing and hand washing as well. Unfortunately, boiling, freezing or adding disinfectants still would not make the water safe.
It was found that the chemical (Indulin AA86), an asphalt emulsifier, got into the water supply. Unfortunately, a boil-water advisory was not good enough this time because of the chemical contamination. An advisory is a public health announcement and typically issued when bacteria enters the water supply and the state or local department issues a boil-water advisory.
Whether a city bans all water usage or places a boil-water advisory, it’s a big deal and can greatly impact your dental practice!
First you must determine what kind of water system you have. An open system (no water bottle) is directly connected to the municipal water source. If this is the case, you cannot use the water during treatment until the advisory is cancelled and the lines are thoroughly flushed (see instructions below).
A closed system uses a removable water bottle that attaches to the dental unit. These bottles are typically filled with distilled or bottled water. You can proceed as normal using a closed system as long as the water is not coming from a municipal water source.
The following CDC guidelines need to be used when a boil-water advisory is in effect:
- Water from the municipal water source should not be delivered to patients through the dental unit, ultrasonic scaler or other dental equipment that uses the municipal water system.
- Patients should be rinsed with bottled or distilled water only.
- Dental healthcare professionals should use antimicrobial products for hand hygiene. If hands are visibly contaminated, soap and bottled water should be used.
What to do when the advisory is cancelled:
- All water lines should be flushed for at least 30 minutes to clear them of contaminates. This includes faucets and all dental lines as well.
- Dental unit waterlines should then be disinfected accordingly with the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Sadly many procedures cannot be performed during a water-boil advisory due to the poor water quality and will need to be rescheduled until the water is safe to use.
All in all, it’s unfortunate when our water supply is contaminated. It’s an inconvenience for both the practice and the patient. However, to achieve optimal oral health we all must follow these guidelines and keep everyone safe.