A New Reason to Be Afraid of Going to the Dentist

dentistThere are so many reasons not to like going to the dentist, so many things to fear: cavities, fillings, drills, root canals, bad-tasting pastes, those things you have to bite down on for X-rays (really hate those), even the look of disapproval on the dental assistant's face when you admit you may not floss every day. But now there's something new to fear: Legionnaires' disease.

Yup, the death of an 82-year-old Italian woman who had been infected by Legionnaires' disease -- which people get from breathing in bacteria-infected particles of standing water and which causes symptoms that are sort of like a severe case of pneumonia -- was traced to the water line in her dentist's office. And it turns out that dental water lines are a known potential source for Legionella bacteria, which can cause Legionnaires' disease.


The good news is that here in the United States, the American Dental Association has put in all sorts of standards and safeguards to protect patients and to keep bacteria out of dental water lines. (It's not clear what safeguards were in place in Italy, where the 82-year-old woman contracted the disease.) But still it's almost enough to make you cancel your next semi-annual appointment.

I mean, it's hard enough to motivate to see the dentist as it is. Where is the joy? Where is the reward? No, a new toothbrush and packet of floss don't count. I know, I know, the reward is healthy teeth and gums. And of course, I'll go to the dentist for my regular cleanings and checkups like everyone else. But now, when it's time to rinse? I'll approach the fountain with caution.

I mean ... ew.

Does the idea that dental water lines can be a source of Legionnaires' disease concern you?


Image via The Consumerist/Flickr

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