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IMAGE: Researcher wih test tubesThe Research Institute conducts investigations on emerging oral health care issues relevant to the general health of the public and the occupational health of the dental professionals. The Research Institute provides timely scientific findings for the benefit of public and the profession on public health issues identified by the Council on Scientific Affairs and the association's Research Agenda. Investigative findings are communicated through multiple venues for scientific information exchange, including peer reviewed publications and presentations at national and international scientific meetings.

The Research Institute is housed at the ADA Headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. The Research Institute conducts investigations on emerging oral health care issues relevant to the general health of the public and the occupational health of the dental professionals. The Research Institute provides timely scientific findings for the benefit of public and the profession on public health issues identified by the Council on Scientific Affairs and the association's Research Agenda. Investigative findings are communicated through multiple venues for scientific information exchange, including peer reviewed publications and presentations at national and international scientific meetings.

Current projects of the Research Institute include investigations on aerosols in the dental operatory, dental unit waterlines, occupational exposure to Legionella, and dental handpiece sterilization. The Research Institute also coordinates the Health Screening Program (HSP) held each year during the ADA Annual Session. The ADA’s Evidence-based Dentistry initiatives are also housed under the Research Institute.

Research on Emerging Issues

Aerosol Research Project

There are health concerns from some in the scientific community about the potential transmission of infectious solid particulate spatter and aerosols generated during some dental procedures, and air quality and ventilation in the dental operatory. The primary goal of this project is to evaluate and assess the health risk of particulate splatter and bio-aerosols during patient treatment using ultrasonic scalers and high-speed surgical burs in a simulated dental operatory. Information generated in this study will facilitate the development of guidelines by the profession and American Society of Heating and Air-conditioning Engineering in reducing these potential environmental hazards by instituting engineering controls to reduce particulate splatter and aerosol concentrations down to their pre-operative baseline levels (15 mg/cubic meter of total aerosol particulate mass) as defined by Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

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IMAGE: Research equipmentMicrobial Numbers in Dental Unit Water Lines

In 1995 the ADA recommended that manufacturers of dental equipment develop technologies to permit the numbers of aerobic, mesophilic, heterotrophic bacteria from dental unit waterlines (DUWL) to be no higher than 200 CFU/mL. In 2003 the CDC infection control recommendations for dentistry suggested at level of no more than 500 CFU/mL. Established biofilms in DUWL may exceed 50,000 CFU/ml. Although high CFUs in dental unit water have not been documented as contributors to pathogen transmission, high CFUs in DU water in a healthcare setting may pose a risk to immunocompromised patients. The primary goal of this project is to survey the manufacturers and sampled dental clinics ability to come into compliance with the ADA’s recommendation by manufacturing design and regular disinfectant maintenance by the dental team.

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Occupational Exposure to Legionella among Dentists

Legionella pneumophila has been speculated to be a potential occupational hazard for dentists through the inhalation of aerosols generated by high-speed hand pieces or ultrasonic scalers. The goal of this study is aimed to determine if the seroprevalence of Legionella pneumophila antibodies in practicing dentists is caused by an occupational exposure. Volunteer dentists and non-dentists controls were recruited and those that were seropositive for L. pneumophila antibodies subsequently provided a water sample for each dental unit and home shower that they routinely use.

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Sterilization of Dental Handpieces

It has been demonstrated that dental handpieces may take up saliva or blood containing microorganisms from patients, and induce the cross contamination between patients during subsequent use of dental handpieces. Steam sterilization of handpieces is highly recommended after treatment of each patient to prevent transmission of infectious agents. It has been demonstrated that high-speed dental handpiece turbine is potentially one of the major areas of contamination in handpiece. Two basic kinds of turbines are commercially available, which are canister style- and open wheel-style turbines in dental handpieces. It has been speculated that the efficacy of the steam sterilization of handpieces depends on the design/style of handpiece turbines. However, the effect of steam sterilization on two kinds of handpiece turbines has not been compared. The purpose of this study is to identify the effect of design/style of handpiece turbines on efficacy of steam sterilization without lubricant as specified in AMI ST-55.

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Contact Us
ADA Research Institute
211 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611

Phone: 312-440-2842
Fax: 312-440-2536
Email: science@ada.org