Oral Microbiology Laboratory

Oral Microbiology Laboratory

The Oral Microbiology Laboratory (OML) located at the UNC Adams School of Dentistry provides diagnostic clinical microbiology, microbiological research, microbiology training and sterilization monitoring services to both the school and the community of dental practitioners in North Carolina and the surrounding geographic area.

These services are specifically related to oral microbiology and its application to the following: recognition and assessment of oral bacterial populations in oral flora studies, post treatment of oral infection, bacterial test for caries risk, and the monitoring of sterilization equipment unique to the dental practice.

Sterilization monitoring services are also provided for a number of non-dental clients. In addition to these services this unit has been responsible for monitoring the water quality in the Adams School of Dentistry’s dental unit water lines for bacterial contamination.

The OML accepts oral bacteriological specimens (plaque, surgical, aspirates and saliva) from the school, as well as, from private practitioners in the community for the culture, identification and quantitation of oral pathogens.

Aerobic and anaerobic cultures are prepared using selective media to facilitate the isolation of potential pathogens from normal flora. Specific pathogens associated with various forms of periodontal disease are identified and antibiotic sensitivities and b-lactamase production are determined to assist the clinician in appropriate interventive strategies.

All isolates from surgical, wound and lesion cultures are treated as potential pathogens and identified to the species level.

Why OML?

  • Our Clinical Diagnostics Service is Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)-certified by the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services for human diagnostic specimen testing.
  • We are inspected and licensed by the North Carolina Department of Health for high-complexity bacteriological analysis, and meet the same proficiency and quality control standards required of hospital medical microbiology laboratories.
  • We meet CDC and North Carolina state guidelines for Sterilization Monitoring, (as well as guidelines for most states) by using biological indicators, including lot-number matched controls.
  • Our Dental Unit Water Line testing service uses spiral plating to R2A culture media for quantitative recovery of organisms, which is considered the gold standard method for water testing.

Clinical Diagnostic Services

  • The oral cavity contains hundreds of species of bacteria, most of which are considered normal, even beneficial. Whereas many clinical labs will often report a sample from the mouth as containing “mixed oral flora”, our trained microbiologists are able to see past the normal organisms to target those pathogenic bacteria that cause inflammation and disease, such as Prevotella intermedia, Fusobacterium nucleatum, and Porphyromonas gingivalis.
  • We offer Periodontal, Surgical , and Endodontal culture services, which look for anaerobic and aerobic oral pathogens. We perform identification and antibiotic susceptibility testing on any pathogens found. For Surgical samples, we look for any general pathogens that may be causing infection in surgical sites.
  • We can perform Caries Activity Testing, which measures saliva flow rate, buffering capacity of saliva, and the amount of caries-associated bacteria.


  • All kits: $25.00
  • PERIO culture: $125.00
  • SURG culture: $125.00
  • ENDO culture: $125.00

If interested in our Clinical Diagnostic Services, please contact us to request a collection kit. Our kits contain transport media to stabilize the fragile anaerobic organisms, and include a return shipping box (note: provider pays all return shipping fees)

Infection Control Services

Sterilization Monitoring

  • Our Sterilization Monitoring service uses Biological Indicators with lot-matched controls, which meet CDC and North Carolina state guidelines for dental practices.
  • Our Sterilization Monitoring is a subscription service, meaning that a packet containing everything you need (spore test strips, matched controls, barcode labels, and pre-addressed return envelopes) will be sent to you on a regular interval. You choose if you wish to receive 13 weeks or 26 weeks’ worth of strips at a time, and we will automatically send the next packet when it is time to renew.
  • We call you directly with all positive spore test results, so you will know as soon as possible if there is a problem with your sterilizer
  • PRICING: $75.00 per quarter (13 test packet) or $150 per 26 test packet

Click here to fill out an SMS order form.

Dental Unit Water Lines

  • Microbial biofilms can and will form in your dental unit water lines (DUWL) if they are not regularly maintained. These microbes can dislodge and cause serious infections in your patients. Outbreaks, major infections, and even deaths have been linked back to contaminated DUWL
  • Contaminated DUWL are also dangerous for dental practice staff; aerosols put them at higher risk of contracting a serious illness from pathogens such as Legionella Pseudomonas and Mycobacterium. This risk is shown by the higher than normal titer of antibodies to these bacteria in dental professionals.
  • Most dental practices now make use of shock treatments and continuous-use treatments, as well as bottled water (rather than plumbed lines). However, the only way to know if your protocol is effective is to test the water!
  • The ADA, OSHA, and OSAP recommend testing all DUWL on a quarterly basis, following the CDC guideline of no more than 500 colony forming units (CFU) of heterotrophic bacteria/ml of DUWL
  • PRICING: $25.00 per test, which includes collection kit and culture service. Note: provider pays return shipping fees

Click here to fill out a DUWL testing order form.


Oral Microbiology Laboratory
UNC-CH Adams School of Dentistry
3030 Old Dental Building, CB #7457
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7457
Phone: (919) 537-3341
Fax: (919) 966-5789
Email: oralmicro@dentistry.unc.edu