Legionella Control for Dentists

Don’t underestimate the importance of ensuring the quality of your dental unit water. With patients and surgery staff regularly exposed to water from aerosols used during treatment, failure to ensure that dental unit water lines (DUWL) are clean can cause contamination, risk spreading infection to patients and dental workers and may be a breach of Health and Safety Guidelines.

Although cases of infection from dental surgeries are thankfully rare, there remains concern at the potential for legionella to be spread from DUWL. Contamination has become more of a concern in recent years. The biofilm on the inner surface of the DUWLs provides a favourable environment for the bacteria to gather and breed.

Events in Scotland in 2012 showed that few preventable illnesses inspire as much media scrutiny and public concern as Legionnaire’s Disease. The fact that the bacteria is spread through droplets of water and carried in the air means it is something that can be contracted without any awareness or knowledge. It is estimated that about 12% of those who contract Legionnaire’s Disease will die. Those who survive may never fully recover.

This places a large responsibility on dentists to maintain the quality of DUWLs by instituting infection control measures. The Health and Safety Commission’s requirements can be found in “The Control of Legionella Bacteria in Water Systems – Approved Code of Practice and Guidance”. The code of practice applies to all premises covered by the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, including dental surgeries. All dentists are required to conduct a statutory risk assessment in their practices and, to comply with their legal duties as employers, dentists must identify and assess sources of risk and implement a scheme for preventing and controlling that risk.

Your Responsibility

All dentists are required to conduct a statutory risk assessment in their practices and, to comply with their legal duties as employers, dentists must identify and assess sources of risk and implement a scheme for preventing and controlling that risk.

The aim is to ensure compliance with the Department of Health’s Health Technical Memorandum (HTM 01/05) which was introduced in 2009 as a response to emerging evidence around the effectiveness of decontamination in primary care dental practices. Practice managers should ensure that DUWLs are flushed daily. HTM 01-05 advises that at the start of each day, all DUWLs, including the three-in-one syringe, need to be purged for three minutes with either freshly distilled or RO water. Between each patient treatment, all DUWLs will require purging for 20-30 seconds and at the end of the day it is recommended to purge the DUWLs for three minutes. In addition to this, a self-contained water bottle system should be used and filled with freshly distilled or reverse osmosis water, instead of being delivered directly from the mains and dental practices are required, by law to perform a legionella risk assessment and water quality test.

All dental practices both in the NHS and Private Sector are required to register with the Care Quality Commission and meet its registration requirements as set out in the Memorandum.

Swiftclean services for Dentists

Swiftclean – one of the UK’s longest established providers of duct cleaning and legionella prevention services – provides comprehensive solutions to challenges presented by air and water hygiene compliance.

We can provide a complete risk assessment for your surgery and recommend a regime for quarterly cleaning to ensure that both your system and your business aren’t exposed to unnecessary risks.

Contact Us to find out more.