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Woman Dies after Contracting Legionnaires’ Disease in Dentist’s Office

Among the many ways that a dentist or dental professional may be guilty of negligence is failing to ensure that treatment conditions in their clinic are 100% sanitary. An 82-year-old woman recently died after contracting Legionnaires’ Disease from a dentist’s office.

The 82-year-old woman had visited her dentist’s office for a routine procedure. A few days later, she fell ill, and died soon after. When health officials began investigating her illness, they found that during the time the disease was in incubation, she had left the house just twice, to visit her dentist’s office. They then inspected the water lines in the dentist’s office, and found that these were contaminated with the bacteria Legionella pneumophila that causes Legionnaires’ Disease.

This incident occurred under conditions that did not adequately protect the patient. Fortunately, water sanitation standards in the United States are much stricter than they have ever been and this should not be too much of a concern. The American Dental Association had convened a special task force in the 1990s that focused exclusively on infection prevention in dentist offices. The American Dental Association since then has made a number of recommendations to dentists to treat the water that is used in water lines to keep infection rates down. Obviously, a good development for patient care and well-being.

Water lines transfer water from the main water supply unit to the various devices that are used by dentists during procedures. Contamination in these lines can have possibly dangerous repercussions. According to recommendations by the American Dental Association, dental water lines must contain a maximum of 500 colony-forming units of bacteria per millilitre of water. These limits are also recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 1963 when the first report of contaminated water bottles appeared, evidence has been compounding that patients and practitioners exposed to treatment water with greater than 500 CFU/ml are at risk for several gram-negative bacterial and fungal related illnesses. Immunocompromised patients are especially susceptible to these infective organisms. Mainstream media has picked up on this topic, most recently reporting the death of the 82-year-old  woman, as discussed above.

The American Dental Association also recommends that water be stored and maintained in a separate water reservoir. Dentists are also advised to use filters that keep out micro organisms from water.

Robert J. Fleming is an Atlanta dental malpractice lawyer, representing persons who have been injured due to the negligence of dentists, dental technicians and other dental professionals across the metro Atlanta region. Attorney Fleming has been handling wrongful death cases, automobile accident cases, personal injury cases, dental malpractice and medical malpractice lawsuits for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 20 years in and around Atlanta, Georgia and its surrounding areas, including Alpharetta, Austell, Avondale Estates, Chamblee, College Park, Conyers, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Hapeville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, and Smyrna. If you have been seriously injured and would like quality legal representation, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.