New infection control standard applies to treating exposed dental pulp

An emergency regulation soon to be adopted by the Dental Board of California amends the minimum standards for infection control to require that water or other methods used for irrigation be sterile or contain recognized disinfecting or antibacterial properties when treating exposed dental pulp. All individuals licensed to practice dentistry in California will be required to follow the new infection control standard.

Assembly Bill 1277 (Daly, D-Anaheim), signed into law last October by Gov. Jerry Brown, requires the dental board to adopt the emergency regulation “for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety, or general welfare.” An outbreak of mycobacterial infection at a children’s dental clinic in Southern California in 2016 prompted the legislation, which CDA supported. More than 60 children were hospitalized as a result of their infections, some with severe complications. The investigation that followed suggested a bacterium was introduced by water during the performance of pulpotomies.

This infection control standard adds to existing dental board regulations on water quality, which require that dental water lines be purged at the beginning of each workday and flushed between patients.

The dental board is in the process of adopting the emergency regulation and has until Dec. 31, 2018, to adopt a final regulation that is consistent with the emergency regulation.

CDA will keep members informed about any further action the board takes and additional regulatory requirements for dentists.

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Assembly Bill 1277 sets a new standard for infection control that requires dentists to use sterile water or a disinfecting or antibacterial agent when irrigating exposed dental pulp and directs the Dental Board of California to codify these requirements in its infection control regulations. CDA supported the legislation.

The ordered closure in mid-December of a children’s dental clinic in Southern California reminds dental practices of the importance of cleaning and maintaining dental unit water lines for the safety of patients. CDA urges dentists to ensure they are following the Dental Board of California’s current requirements along with CDC recommendations.