By Jason Kravarik, CNN

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Anaheim, California (CNN)

An outbreak that sent 30 children to Southern California hospitals and could have long-term effects on their health, is raising awareness about the risk of bacterial infection from water at the dentist's office.

teethAll of the children had a pulpotomy, essentially a "child root canal" and were infected by water used during the procedure, said Dr. Matthew Zahn of the Orange County Health Care Agency.
The cases have been traced to the Children's Dental Group in Anaheim, with patients ages 3 to 9 years old all visiting the clinic between March and July.

"Several hundred people had these pulpotomies, so we are anticipating that for at least the next several weeks or months, we're going to see more cases," Zahn said. He added that the infection, called Mycobacterium abscessus, is slow-moving and can take weeks or months to show symptoms.

Swelling, redness and pain around the infected tooth can occur, with the bacteria often spreading to the gum and jawbone. In those cases, Zahn said, stopping the infection often means removing part of the jaw itself, making it "a long-term issue for these children."
Investigators believe the bacteria grow in low-level stagnant water that isn't flushed. In a dental setting, that water is used during treatment, and when a tooth is capped, it can trap the bacteria inside. 
Calling it "a weak bug," Zahn said most people who encounter M. abscessus simply flush it away during their daily life. But patients who have had a pulpotomy aren't able to get to the infected area inside the tooth, allowing it to grow.

Cecilia Roman claims it happened to her child, who she said initially went in to have her teeth cleaned. 

"At the end of the day, she had three teeth taken out. Her face was swollen," Roman told CNN affiliate KCBS/KCAL. "I feel like I let my daughter down."

Investigation is underway

The Dental Board of California is investigating whether proper procedures were followed at the Children's Dental Group office in Anaheim. The company operates other offices throughout California, but none of those has been linked to the outbreak.