Online Continuing Education / Course Details

ADA Credits: 1 | AGD Credits: 1 | Cost: $19.00

Dental Unit Waterlines and Amalgam: Myths and Reality

Categories: Infection Control

Author(s): Fiona Collins

Course Type: elearning

Target Audience: Dental Assistants, Dentists


Educational Objectives

The overall objective of this webinar is to provide participants with an update on waterlines and related infection prevention pro­tocols, as well as the latest information on amalgam safety, handling and disposal.

On completion of this webinar, participants will be able to do the following:

1. List and describe the role of dental waterlines in cross-contamination and the transmission of microorganisms;

2. Describe infection prevention protocols as they relate to waterlines;

3. Review dental amalgam, including related oral and systemic health data; and

4. Describe ‘Best Practices’ for the handling and disposal of dental amalgam.


Dental unit waterlines are a source of potentially pathogenic microorganisms and present a risk for the transmission of microorganisms and disease. Dental unit waterline biofilm has been found to contain microorganisms that include Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Legionella species and Staphylococcus aureus. Until the death of a patient from Legionnaire’s disease in 2012 that was traced to dental treatment, no confirmed cases of transmission and disease as a result of dental unit waterline water output had occurred. Dental unit waterlines must be handled and treated appropriately to prevent the transmission of microorganisms and disease.

Variants of dental amalgam have been developed since the late 1700s Used as a cost-effective, durable and easy-to-use dental restorative, amalgam also poses a risk for mercury pollution. Mercury pollution associated with amalgam use may occur when amalgam is inappropriately handled and disposed of. This can lead to its incineration and the release of mercury into the atmosphere; into landfills from where mercury can leach into waterways or evaporate; and as sludge that also ends up in the soil and evaporating or leaching. Mercury finding its way into waterways ends up becoming part of the food chain and being ingested. The amount of mercury pollution resulting from dental amalgam use is considered to be relatively small compared to other sources. Safe amalgam handling measures include, but are not limited, to the use of amalgam separators to remove amalgam and other solids from evacuation lines, using an amalgam recycler, and avoiding flushing waste amalgam into the water system. Following the ADA Best Practices for amalgam handling reduces the amount of amalgam reaching the environment and thereby reduces mercury pollution.

ADA Credits: 1 | AGD Credits: 1 | Cost: $19.00

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