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Entry

ISSUE 10 ARCHIVE - DIVING DENTIST

Celehte Fortuin

My buddy's acting weird. The last time we went diving he went all "turtle like" on the Red Sea's sandy bottom. I said a few people may have pointed and laughed and this was considered poor form (oddly enough), so now he's planning his revenge go figure! But I'm not scared. I will simply intimidate him with my awesome air consumption skills and perfect execution of the well known "managing-your-dive-guide's air- supply" drill. Besides, my tools will hurt more than his... although his can kill. Hmmm, I need to think about this business of losing friends and alienating people.
The Underwater Channel
Dive course Managing a buddy/guide's air supply has clearly not been on my mind alone. It has raised the question of how to stop passing on nasties, iggies, eeewwws, urrggghhhhs, yucks and lesser known bacteria via our regulators. A huge hello and thanks to fellow diving dentist Patrick from Dartford for throwing this one out!

Q: Like yourself I too am a diving dentist and found your article in London Diver [now Tanked Up] on cold sores interesting. Do you have any suggestions on how dive schools and clubs can "disinfect" their regulators to reduce or prevent transmission of nasties between divers?

DD: First the good news. According to a respected diver's network, there is no proof or documented evidence that SCUBA diving equipment or sharing a regulator is responsible for bacterial, viral or fungal infection between divers. There is a theoretical risk. Apparently there are only unpublished anecdotal reports on infections in diving regarding shared equipment. In my twisted mind these anecdotes go along the lines of: "Hey, did you guys ever hear that one about the guy whose arm fell off because he shared his long hose regulator with his buddy? No? Well I heard it from a friend of a guy I met at club night a few months ago after we finished a bottle of Tequila, who heard it from a buddy on a liveaboard a few years ago".
Agreed, disinfection and maintenance of our SCUBA gear is important as to state the obvious our lives depend on it. Until we grow gills and become true self contained underwater breathing apparatuses, we still need to put that regulator in and suck on the hose till we get up to where the air is free, hopefully disease-free and alive.

Advice and opinions range from fairly straightforward common sense to more complicated procedures that I'm sure my Equipment Spec was not cut out for. Never mind the Health and Safety Executive having something to say, even the Centre for Disease Control got a look in. So...

After removing obvious debris (sand, salt, seaweed, fish) from the regulator, rinse in fresh water and air dry.

Antibacterial products and goodies from your local dive shop can be used for spraying or submerging. These products have been tested on SCUBA equipment materials for compatibility. Diluted household bleach can be used to submerge the regulator for ten minutes. This was considered sufficient for disinfection.

Even for shared equipment a wash with warm soapy water seemed enough in some opinions.

Dental mouthwash containing Chlorhexidine may also be used as a rinse/soak agent.

This topic raised a lot debate on forums and the like, but the general consensus was "refer back to manufacturers instructions". You can't really blame them even nameless/faceless forums nowadays feel the pressures of being sued for a diver's regulator tasting of whatever-recommended-agent which made them feel slightly "off" on the dive, forcing them to abort the dive and surface without a DSMB because their buddy was too far away and he was the one with the blob (because we only needed one between a buddy pair you know). Upon surfacing he/she/it subsequently drifted into the high speed shipping lanes of the English Channel, sparking a massive S&R attempt costing them a lot of dosh and, to recoup their losses, they are now suing for loss of common sense and demanding an obscene amount of money for a brain transfer. (Apologies, I drifted and missed the point totally the one about any advice and ideas offered taken as concrete science rather than suggestions).

So here are some of the thoughts shared by the dive community:
Sometimes the water/site we dive is dirtier than the regulators.

Some nasties in the water are far more dangerous than those that can be transferred between divers.
Aquamarine Silver
Chlorinated water from pools and seawater is enough to rinse the regulators and render them clean enough to share.

When stored, who knows what gets into our regulators that we ourselves are at risk of.

Finally, with language I cannot dream to repeat here, one forum member told us all to get a life, stop spoiling our sport by stirring up ghosts and unfounded fears as we would ALL reach for the nearest octopus when in trouble, and not even worry about "nasties" at the time (well said, I thought).

I feel if there were any serious risks regarding transmission of organisms between divers sharing equipment we would be well aware of it by now. And sharing Patrick's sentiment: I would be more concerned about the cutlery in my local restaurant.

In the meantime, wait for it... follow the manufacturer's instructions, safe diving and happy flossing!

Celehte can normally be found singing her way through the day at her Fulham practise. Any questions or queries can be sent here or you can call Fulham Dental Care on 020 7610 9400.
Dive Worldwide PNG

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