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What is Biofilm and how is it Affecting Your Dental Practice?

Biofilm is an umbrella term for the many different complex bacteria, fungi, viruses, and cells that can grow amongst the still water in your dental unit waterlines (DUWL’s). If not treated for, these biofilms can build up in dental units over time causing health issues for your patients and maintenece issues for your chair. But don’t worry, there are methods to manage and prevent this from occurring in new and exisiting chairs.

In this article we will outline the problems biofilm build-ups can cause as well as testing methods and solutions to prevent and or remove biofilm build-up from you DUWL’s.


The Dental Unit Water Lines (DUWLs) provide an ideal environment for biofilm formations to grow. The extended periods of water left idle, and narrow waterlines foster a favourable environment for biofilms to attach and grow.

There are many reasons you wouldn’t want these guys growing inside your waterlines and they could already be causing issues in your dental practice operations right under your nose.

Health Risk

Compromised DUWLs present a risk to your patients during oral treatments.

Legionella species are often found in water distribution networks, this can lead to Pontiacs fever or legionaries’ disease (pneumonia) when inhaled through aerosols.

These aerosols are created by your dental handpieces and ultrasonic scalers that, when contaminated, put patients and staff at risk through inhalation.

Vulnerable patients, such as the elderly, diabetics, smokers, or anyone immunocompromised, are at a much higher risk.

Chair Health

There are many thin waterlines and precise moving parts inside your dental chair.

Biofilm formation can prevent these parts from doing their job and can lead to faults and failures that can cost your practice to repair or replace.

Leaking handpiece lines, reduced water pressure or even complete loss of water supply are just some examples of how biofilm formations can affect your dental chair.

ADA Standard

The ADA states that “The number of bacteria in water used as a coolant/irrigant for non-surgical dental procedures should be less than 200 CFU/mL since this is a widely used international limit for safe water for medical applications.”

I’ve been doing water testing across Brisbane for a couple of months now and I’ve found that dental practices that do not treat their water will almost certainly fail to meet this standard and by large margins.

Our Solution

Leading Dental offer a complete product range and in house servicing and testing which will assist you in testing, removing and treating for biofilm build-up. This is just one management system you may choose to adopt, but it is our preferred method, and we feel the easiest end user method. Every dental practice operates uniquely and It’s your job to make sure you adopt best methods for your dental surgery. Our processes are just a guide based on our experience to date and they may change over time.

The Bottle

A clean water bottle system is our preferred method for control and treatment of biofilm. Used correctly with our preventative measure and combined with regular testing of your water, you can have peace of mind that your water lines are clean and safe.

The bottle can be used to treat the water before it enters your DUWLs rather than allowing untreated water coming from the plumbed-in water of your building.

Decontamination and Disinfectant

Decontamination agents can be added to your procedural water that will reduce the chance of exposing your patients and DUWL’s to contaminated water.

Disinfectant agents can be used on weekends to treat and protect the DUWL’s over weekends or holidays when the chair is not being used.

No Bottle?

For those who don’t have bottles, most chair manufacturers provide the option for a bottle to be installed so contact your supplier and inquire about getting a bottle installed.

For the meantime, here is a useful tip that can help prevent biofilm growth.


Constant flushing of water will help to prevent attachment, one of the reasons the DUWL’s are so vulnerable is the prolonged periods of water sitting completely still. Just 5 minutes of flushing water through your handpiece and triplex lines in the morning can make all the difference.


Leading Dental supply high accuracy HPC sampler tests for approximating biofilm counts in your DUWL. This is not a substitute for Lab testing, but our supplier claims independent test have shown similar accuracy levels lab tests. You can perform these tests yourself and use our easy-to-follow guide to interpret your results. Contact Leading Dental for more information on these tests.

We would recommend quarterly or half yearly testing to ensure the cleanliness of your DUWL’s and keep a record of control measures and compliance.

What are you doing to control biofilm in your dental practice?

Call us on 07 3139 1549 or email for more information today!


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