Managing dental unit waterlines: a quality improvement programme

Fahad Umer, Madiha Khan, Farhan Raza Khan, Karim Tejani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The presence of bacterial biofilms within dental unit waterlines (DUWLs) can cause secondary bacterial infections in immunocompromised patients. As a result, the management of biofilms within waterlines has always concerned medical and dental professionals. In February 2020, an internal audit identified the high bacterial counts within the DUWLs at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi and this paper discusses a pragmatic approach to improving the water quality of DUWLs. A three-person committee was developed and the area for improvement was identified as the contaminated DUWLs. Distilled water samples from two dental units were first assessed as baseline in July 2020. The process changes were then implemented which included daily flushing of the dental unit waterlines and € shock treatment' using A-dec ICX capsules. Subsequently, the units were tested after intervention on 24 August 2020 and water from all 16 dental units assessed on 20 November 2020 and again on 22 April 2021. The samples from all the dental units assessed showed marked reduction in bacterial counts and compliance with the Centers for Disease Control guidelines after intervention. All the dental units showed minimal bacterial counts; however, a slightly low pH was noted in the final round of water testing. DUWLs are heavily contaminated with microbes and pose potential risk both to the patient as well as the DHCPs. This study suggests that chemical disinfection using A-dec ICX tablets and flushing as an effective method of reducing the bacterial load in DUWLs.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere001685
JournalBMJ Open Quality
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2022


  • PDSA
  • Patient safety
  • Quality improvement
  • Quality improvement methodologies


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