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Tainted Water at California Dentist Tied to Infection Outbreak

More than 30 children have become sick after undergoing procedures at a Southern California dentist’s office. The infection outbreak has been linked to contaminated water used during the procedures.

As reported by CNN, all of the children underwent a procedure at Children's Dental Group in Anaheim known as a pulpotomy, where infected pulp tissue of a tooth is treated and/or removed. To date, 41 patients ages three to nine years old have become sick after visiting the clinic between March and July of this year.

In September, the Orange County Health Care Agency confirmed that multiple samples taken from the dental office’s internal on-site water system tested positive for mycobacterium that is similar to the Mycobacteria chelonae/abscessus. The agency subsequently ordered the dental office to stop using the water system for patient care and to stop performing pulpotomies.

Nonetheless, additional infection reports are likely. "Several hundred people had these pulpotomies, so we are anticipating that for at least the next several weeks or months, we're going to see more cases," said Dr. Matthew Zahn of the Orange County Health Care Agency.

The bacteria that sickened the children often grows in stagnant water. Accordingly, the Dental Board of California is investigating whether the Children's Dental Group followed proper infection control procedures. State regulations require that water lines be "purged with air or flushed with water for at least two minutes" every day.

Symptoms of Mycobacterium abscessus dental infections include swelling, redness, and pain around the infected tooth. In many cases, the bacteria will slowly spread to the gum and jawbone. The good news is that the bacterial infection is treatable through debridement of infected tissue and use of combination antibiotic therapy for a prolonged period. However, some infected children may require a large amount of infected tissue or bone to be removed, which could result in long-term health consequences.

If your child or someone you care about has suffered serious harm due to a dental error, you may be entitled to compensation. For more information, please contact a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.