Ecology of dental unit waterlines, development of methodologies to monitor and control microbial contamination in the clinical environment

Surgeries depend on dental unit waterlines (DUWLs) to supply water to dental drills during clinical treatment. A DUWL is, essentially a series of interconnecting narrow bore tubes that supply clean water from a reservoir of stored water at one end to a dental drill during clinical use at the other end. Between treatments, the water within the tubing remains stagnant allowing the development of a biofilm. Biofilms consist of a consortium of microorganisms, which can detach from the tubing and become re-suspended in the flowing water leading to poor quality water being discharged. Although dental practices use biocides to clean water lines, research suggests that these biocides can fail with bacterial contamination significantly exceeding the safe levels set by the Department of Health.

Knowledge of disease causing bacteria is increasing for all aquatic environments. To that end we are currently engaged in research to develop sensitive and rapid methods of testing water in dental practices to ensure safe water is used in clinical treatment to reduce the potential for infecting patients and dental professionals. 

Project Lead

Sim K. Singhrao

Project Staff

Mr Sham Lal (PhD studentship)

Mr Qurban Ali (PhD studentship)



Public Outputs

Pearce M, O’Donnell H, Singhrao SK, Crean S (2013) Assessing water discharged from dental units using Dip Slides™. The British Society for Oral and Dental Research (BSODR) abstract number 181571

Dillon A, Achilles-Day U, Singhrao SK, Pearce M, Morton LHG, Crean S (2013) Biocide sensitivity of Vermamoeba vermiformis isolated from dental-unit-water-line systems. International Biodeterioration & Biodegradation (in press)


Preventing potential occupational health and public outbreaks of fatal diseases. This research has enabled us to deposit molecular sequences in the GenBank (repository for molecular sequences).


Dr Mandy Dillon, Institute for Advanced Studies, Research and Enterprise Services, Lancaster University,

Dr Undine Achilles-Day
Culture Collection of Algae and Protozoa
Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS)
Scottish Marine Institute

Mr Mark Pearce,
Dental Tutor, Chair of east Lancashire Dental R & D network,
& Associate staff, University of Central Lancashire,
Quest dental care,

Dr Tapas Sen, Senior Lecturer in Inorganic and Materials Chemistry, School of Forensic and Investigative Sciences
Institute of Nanotechnology and Bioengineering ResearcherID : Sen, Tapas T (H-1107-2012)
Research citations


Dr Sim K. Singhrao received the 2011, Don Claugher Bursary. The prize was awarded by the Committee of the Society of Electron Microscope Technology to cover consumables.