Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 185, Issue 5, pp 3603-3611

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Bacterial contamination of dental unit waterlines

  • Jolanta SzymańskaAffiliated withChair and Department of Paedodontics, Medical University Email author 
  • , Jolanta SitkowskaAffiliated withDepartment of Occupational Biohazards, Institute of Agricultural Medicine


Safety of patients and dental personnel requires the appropriate microbiological water quality in dental units. During treatment, patients and dental workers are exposed both to direct contact with bacteria-contaminated water in the form of splatter and with contaminated water aerosol emitted during work by unit handpieces, including rotating and ultrasonic instruments. The aim of the study was to determine the qualitative and quantitative contamination of water in dental unit reservoirs with aerobic and facultative anaerobic bacteria. The study material included water sampled from 107 dental unit reservoirs located in dental surgeries of public health centres. Conventional microbiological methods were used to identify microorganisms. The study shows that the contamination of water in dental unit reservoirs with aerobic and facultative anaerobic bacteria is commonplace. The mean concentration of mesophile bacteria in dental unit reservoir water exceeded 1.1 × 105 cfu/ml. The prevailing species were Gram-negative bacteria of the families Burkholderiaceae, Pseudomonadaceae, Ralstoniaceae and Sphingomonadaceae. The most numerous bacteria were Ralstonia pickettii, constituting 49.33 % of all the identified aerobic and facultative anaerobic bacteria. Among Gram-positive rods, the most numerous were bacteria of the genus Brevibacterium (5.83 %), while the highest percentage shares (13.25 %) of all Gram-positive microorganisms were found for Actinomyces spp. The study confirms the necessity of regular monitoring of microbial contamination of dental unit waterlines (DUWL) and use of various water treatment procedures available to disinfect DWUL.


Dental unit waterlines Bacterial contamination Aerobic and facultative anaerobic bacteria