A dental office is a busy place. Patients coming and going throughout the day. Cleanings, X-rays, fillings, crowns, root canals. All of that activity makes for a challenging logistical problem — what to do with the resulting hazardous waste.
Here, we offer advice on how to dispose of the six most common types of dental waste so you can keep your patients safe, the environment clean and your business compliant.
1. Mercury Amalgam Waste
Amalgam is a combination of metals chemically bonded by mercury, a toxic element that can enter the environment through waste water, vapors or scrap. Never dispose of dental amalgam in the garbage, in a sharps container or down the drain — this dental waste should always be managed by amalgam removal specialists.
In December 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a federal regulation requiring amalgam separators in dental offices. These devices can increase the capture of dental amalgam waste from 80 percent to 95 percent. Check the American Dental Association’s best management practices for amalgam waste.
2. Silver-Containing Wastes
With its high silver content, used X-ray fixer should not be washed down the drain. Instead, you can install an in-house silver recovery unit, which allows you to salvage the silver. Or the waste can be collected by a biomedical waste disposer. Many practices now avoid the challenges of X-ray fixer waste disposal by using digital imaging equipment.
3. Lead-Containing Wastes
X-ray packets and lead aprons contain lead foil, which has a leachable toxin that can contaminate soil and groundwater if sent to landfills. To avoid this issue, lead disposal should be handled by a licensed hazardous waste disposal company.
4. Blood-Soaked Gauze
For this biohazardous medical waste, proper disposal steps include packaging it in a leak- and puncture-resistant red disposable plastic bag or a leak-proof reusable container with a universal biohazard symbol. Learn more about the rules for dealing with bloodborne pathogens.
Sharps containers must be appropriately labeled, puncture resistant and leak-proof. The container should be visible and easily reachable by the person using the sharps, and not placed in high-traffic areas, under sinks, inside cabinets or near light switches.
6. Chemicals, Disinfectants and Sterilizing Agents
Some of these substances are federally regulated and must be treated as hazardous waste because they can also have a detrimental effect on the environment. If possible, sterilize instruments with steam or dry heat. And ask your biomedical waste provider for guidance on the proper disposal of all chemicals used in your dental office.
Need Some Help?
As a partner of the Arizona Dental Association, US Bio-Clean can provide cost-effective disposal solutions for your dental office.