Dental School studying new dental unit waterline technology
The Dental School at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio has received a grant to continue studying a new technology to improve the quality of water used in treating dental patients.
“Waterline contamination is caused by biofilms that form on the inside of waterline tubing,” explained Nuala Porteous, D.D.S., M.P.H., associate professor in the Department of Comprehensive Dentistry. She is co-principal investigator of the four-year grant from the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
Dr. Porteous is working with co-principal investigator Yuyu Sun, Ph.D., a polymer chemist at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and co-investigator John Schoolfield, M.S., a biostatistician in the Department of Comprehensive Dentistry, on the $1.2 million project.
Investigators build on previous study
In a previous NIH-funded R01 study, Dr. Porteous and Dr. Sun successfully demonstrated the efficacy of an innovative, N-halamine rechargeable, antimicrobial technology in preventing and controlling dental unit waterline biofilms in simulated clinical conditions.
Reducing microbial concentrations
In the new study, the investigators will further develop the rechargeable, antimicrobial technology to reduce the level of initial microbial concentration and further extend the biofilm-controlling duration. The new technology will be systematically evaluated in a model dental water delivery system to establish its safety and efficacy.
“We expect that this technology will significantly improve the quality of dental patient treatment water,” Dr. Porteous said. “This will be the first antimicrobial dental water delivery system to provide long-term protection against microbial colonization and biofilm formation without negatively affecting the physical properties of the effluent water.”
Dental practice evaluation to come
This new study is the final step before evaluating the new technology in dental practice. In addition, the new materials may have other applications to reduce the risk of biofilm-related infections, such as hospital showers, respiratory care equipment and water distribution systems.
“The EPA requires that potable water in community water systems contain less than 500 colony-forming units per milliliter (CFU/mL) of microorganisms and the CDC recommends that dental patient treatment water meet the EPA drinking water standard,” Dr. Porteous explained. "Contact of a patient’s open wound, mucous membrane or body cavity with dental water contaminated with large numbers of microorganisms is incompatible with good hygiene, infection control practices and inconsistent with the public’s expectations of modern dentistry."
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