Conversations with the dentist

During a recent trip to the dentist, I started to wonder how water quality notifications affect the ability to provide optimal care to the patient. With a boil water advisory recently lifted in the Comox Valley, I couldn’t help but wonder about all of the ways in which water is used in society. With my mouth agape and the hygienist starting me on my backward descent, I managed to blurt out the question: “how did the recent boil water advisory affect you”? It didn’t, I was told. Now that my curiosity was peaked I had to wait until my teeth were shiny and new to inquire further.

Q: How did the recent boil water advisory affect your ability to perform dental procedures?

A: Luckily, the boil water advisory does not affect our services. We use filtered water and tablets that control bacteria for patient use. Our sterilization equipment operates at extreme heat for a sustained period of time giving any bacteria a zero chance of survival.

With a little digging, I was able to find out that in the US the Center for Disease Control and Prevention published guidelines for infection control in dentistry in 2003, which established a recommendation that water quality for routine dental procedures not exceed Environmental Protection Agency drinking-water standards for micro-organisms. Excellent! Time constraints dictated that my research about Canadian laws needed more, well, time.

Q: What type of additional treatment measures do you employ?

A: We use bottled water (which we purchase in bulk) for drinking / coffee. We typically have several large bottles in stock at any one time. We have special filters in one area and a hot water tap in the staff room. Filters are changed annually.

I had never reflected on it but I do only drink water from a cooler when I am at the dentist. More good news, nothing to worry about! I was curious to know if anyone was assigned the task of monitoring the increased treatment and there is a manager who keeps track when filters need to be changed. I also wanted to about their water footprint but with changing variables, number of procedures etc., this is a number difficult to come by.

I continued on to inquire about water conservation practices and was pleased to learn that there are high efficiency sterilization units which can help conserve water and they are considering this option for next year. Fantastic! I see an easy marketing slogan here.

While not a water system, being responsible for care of a potentially vulnerable population, extra steps need to be made in order to ensure patient safety. I look forward to hearing about their water conservation practices in the upcoming years. Thank you to Shelley McGaw from Driftwood Dental for answering my questions!

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