What Kind of Water Do I Use in My Dental Unit?

What Kind of Water Do I Use in My Dental Unit?

It can be difficult to know which water choice to use in your dental unit because there are so many. Can you drink artisanal water that has been filtered from ancient volcanic rock deep beneath Mount Fuji, or should you only drink municipal tap water?

The ambiguity stems from the dental office's desire to provide a clean supply for antimicrobial treatment that also fits well with the dental unit's components. A quick review of the most popular water forms will aid in determining your practice requirements.

Distilled, Deionized or Demineralized Water – The bulk of the minerals have been extracted from this form of water. They seem to be a logical option, considering the high purity and the fact that a stock is already on hand for use with steam sterilizers in the office. However, despite the apparent benefits of distilled water, it can be corrosive to metal components within the dental unit. With no minerals to give the water pH balance, distilled water acts like a magnet, absorbing chemicals (phthalates and bisphenols) from plastic and absorbing ions from metal. The metal corrodes until an equilibrium concentration of metal ions in the water is reached. Unlike other brands and imported dental units that use brass components and unknown plastics, ASI Dental uses high-quality plastic fittings and stainless steel in our dental unit valves, fittings, and control block. So, corrosion damage to an ASI dental unit is less affected by pure distilled water. However, we would still not recommend pure distilled water for long-term use and recommend using other more acceptable water types for your practice.

Regular Tap Water and Filtered Tap Water – Despite the fact that it does not seem so, most urban water supplies are sufficient sources of healthy drinking water for humans. As a result, tap water may be used in the dental device. The only requirement is that tap water, like every other water source, should be used in conjunction with an in-line water line disinfection to prevent biofilm buildup within the dental waterline tubings (see Waterline Disinfection below).

However, due to the high mineral content of some tap waters from wells, they can be classified as hard water. If your area has hard water, it's not a good idea to use it for a long time because calcium-like deposits can build up within the miniature fittings and valves, clogging them.Filtered tap water that removes excess minerals and other impurities may be a viable option but depends on the type used. Whether you can use tap water in your practice should be evaluated by its mineral content, if you deem it safe for consumption and the type of filtration used (if any).

Bottled Drinking Water – This can be a balanced approach providing a readily identifiable clean source of water but usually has balanced mineral content to provide acceptable taste and not be corrosive as pure water. Available in larger jug containers or through a delivery service can make it less expensive to use and store. Most common types of bottled drinking water should be safe to use, but you should still evaluate a brand and source you trust.

Water Line Disinfection

Regardless of the source or type of water used within the dental unit, a key factor is to use a waterline disinfection protocol. Even absolute sterile water will quickly begin to build up a bacterial biofilm within the micro-sized dental tubings used throughout the dental unit. To reduce the bacterial presence, a waterline disinfectant rated safe for use with dental units such as straws, tablets, or solutions are available. We do not recommend most of the tablets, powder mixes, or shock treatments since they will damage the components within the dental unit. We do highly recommend using a disinfectant straw, such as DentaPure 365B, as it maintains an acceptable level of low-concentration iodine disinfectant for a full year (240L of water). They are low cost, require minimal staff maintenance, and do not damage the components within the ASI dental unit.

Regardless of the disinfectant system your office has, it’s always important to use clean water. Distilled water increases the effective lifespan of any disinfectant straw used due to the lack of minerals included, and municipal tap water is generally acceptable. Bottled water is sufficient when paired with a straw or tablet disinfectant. We do not recommend water from in-office distillation or reverse osmosis machines due to the increased chance of bacterial colonies forming within the distillation unit itself.

Water Line Testing

Using a consistent and effective water disinfection protocol is required.  Quarterly Dental Unit Water Line (DUWL) testing will ensure compliance with CDC and EPA regulations. Consider your current DUWL protocols and check if your system is compliant. Keeping your water lines beneath the threshold of 500 bacterial colony-forming units per milliliter (<500 CFU/ml) of water is of paramount importance for ensuring the health and safety of your patients. To quickly evaluate the bacteria level within your dental unit waterlines ASI provides in-office water line test kits to use.