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Saliva Ejector & Backflow

How does backflow occur when using a saliva ejector?

Backflow occurs when previously suctioned fluids present in the suction tubing flow back into the patient’s mouth. Backflow can occur when:

  • There is pressure in a patient’s mouth (a result of closing their lips and forming a seal around the tip of the ejector) that is less than in the saliva ejector (similar to how liquid flows back into a cup after drinking through a straw).
  • The suction tubing attached to the ejector is positioned above the patient’s mouth.
  • A saliva ejector is used at the same time as other evacuation (high-volume) equipment.

Although no adverse health effects associated with the saliva ejector have been reported, dental health care personnel (DHCP) should be aware that backflow could occur when they use a saliva ejector. DHCP should not advise patients to close their lips tightly around the tip of the saliva ejector to evacuate oral fluids. DHCP should contact the manufacturer of the dental unit to review proper use and maintenance procedures, including appropriate cleaning and disinfection methods.

References

Barbeau J, ten Bokum L, Gauthier C, Prevost AP. Cross-contamination potential of saliva ejectors used in dentistry. J Hosp Infect 1998;40:303–311.

CDC. Guidelines for infection control in dental health-care settings – 2003. MMWR 2003; 52(No. RR-17):1–66. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/rr/rr5217.pdf [PDF-1.2M]. Accessed March 18, 2016.

Mann GLB, Campbell TL, Crawford JJ. Backflow in low-volume suction lines: The impact of pressure changes. J Am Dent Assn 1996;127:611–615.

Watson CM, Whitehouse RLS. Possibility of cross-contamination between dental patients by means of the saliva ejector. J Am Dent Assn 1993;124:77–80.

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