Orange County children's dental clinic closed after bacteria found in new water system

Orange County health officials have ordered the closure of a children's dental office in Anaheim after lab tests found bacteria in its new internal water system, which had replaced a system blamed for an earlier outbreak of bacterial infections.

The county Health Care Agency conducted initial testing of the water system at Children's Dental Group of Anaheim in September when the agency received multiple reports of children who had developed oral infections after undergoing "baby root canals" at the facility, according to the agency. The dental office is located in the 2100 block of East Lincoln Avenue.


Despite the clinic's replacement of its on-site water system, county health officials confirmed on Thursday that multiple samples taken from the new system tested positive for Mycobacterium, which can lead to serious infections.

"This action was necessary in order to determine the actual source of the Mycobacterium since it has reappeared," said Dr. Eric Handler, the county's public health officer. "We are working with the Centers for Disease Control and the Dental Board of California to determine what conditions are necessary to lift the order."

Mycobacterium abscessus infections can be treated, but that treatment can be complex and involve surgery or intravenous antibiotics. All infected children should be hospitalized for initial assessment and care, health officials said. As of Dec. 13, the county had recorded 58 reports of infections at the Anaheim dental office, with 20 of those cases confirmed.

Parents with concerns about care their children received at the facility can file a report online with the Dental Board of California. A list of frequently asked questions is available on the HCA's website in both English and Spanish. Parents can also contact county health officials at (714) 834-8180.

The county health agency received multiple reports in September of children who had developed infections after undergoing treatment at the Anaheim office. Several children showed signs of "slowly progressive oral cellulitis" with dental abscesses or respiratory infections and some were hospitalized, officials said.

M. abscessus is found in dust, water and soil and is known to contaminate medical devices. The commonly occurring bacteria can cause abscesses and other skin and soft-tissue infections. It can also infect bones, and is treated with prolonged antibiotic use.

Many of the children began showing symptoms 15 to 85 days after the initial procedure, officials said.

Health officials are most concerned about hundreds of children who received pulpotomy procedures at the Anaheim facility between March and September. The facility stopped performing the procedures Sept. 6.

The California Department of Public Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Dental Board of California are working with the healthcare agency to investigate the infections.

The Children's Dental Group said it followed industry standards for care and used modern equipment and instruments.

"To protect the health and safety of our patients, upon seeing this we began a review and testing of our systems, equipment, water and other elements in the office," the dental group said in a statement in September.