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All Posts in Category: dental waste


Dealing with medical waste isn’t just for hospitals—it’s also pertinent to smaller clinics, doctors offices and dental facilities. Most dental offices don’t just do routine screenings and cleanings, but also do surgeries, which means they produce standard medical waste, such as gauze and sharps, as well as surgical and pathological waste, which have to be very specifically dealt with under state laws.

Below are five must-know facts for dental offices regarding medical waste:

Create Written Policies

Even if you’re a dental office that doesn’t have a great deal of medical waste to deal with, it’s still advisable to establish written policies and guidelines showing employees how to handle a variety of situations. This can be valuable not just to inform your staff of protocol, but it can also be useful if you do run into a situation where a regulatory audit might be required. Make sure policies about regulated medical waste are as clear and precise as possible.

Be Aware of The Types of Waste

In a dental office, there are usually five categories of regulated waste which include bulk blood or blood products, as well as potentially infectious materials, items soaked or caked with blood or saliva, waste that involves removed teeth, sharps and potential sharps that may not have broken but could. The classification of waste will determine how it must be dealt with.

Learn Regulations Regarding Heavy Metals

One area of waste management that is of particular relevance in the dental industry involves heavy metals. The EPA, as well as state governments, determine how heavy metals can and should be disposed of, including silver and mercury. There may also be local regulations and laws in place about the disposal of metals, so it’s important for dental offices to be very aware of both federal and localized regulations before getting rid of any metal that could originate from the removal of a tooth or a dental procedure.

Reducing Pickups

If you operate a dental practice that already works with a professional medical waste disposal company, and you want to lower costs a bit, you might consider reducing the frequency of your pickup service. Many dental offices don’t produce massive amounts of waste, so they may be able to reasonably get by with fewer pickups to save money. Just make sure that before you make that decision, you’re aware of state and local regulations as to how much waste you can keep on site at any given time.

Determine How Teeth Are Classified

Teeth are obviously one of the biggest areas of concern in a dental office, and it’s important to check at the state level and see how they’re classified. Most states classify them as pathological waste, although some states don’t. If they are considered pathological, teeth should be put in a sharps container or red bag, unless they contain amalgam. Some offices and states may allow for teeth to be returned to a patient as an alternative to waste disposal.

Creating a Compliant Dental Office

Following the above tips can help you ensure your dental office is completely compliant, so you not only avoid fines or penalties but also so that your staff and patients are as healthy and safe as possible in your facility.

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The U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has come up with a new proposal to modify the existing standards, which will consequently help to lower the release of dental amalgam waste in our environment.

The EPA projects that after the new law takes full effect under the Clean Water Act, it may reduce the metal discharge to POTWs (Publicly Owned Treatment Works), by a whopping 8.8 tons every year!

As per the new proposed rule, all dentists will have to reduce their release of mercury discharges into POTWs. In particular, they have to lower the dental waste known as ‘amalgam discharges’ to a minimal level using amalgam separator technology in combination with other reduction strategies.

Research reveals that almost 50% of the mercury that gets into the POTWs belongs to dental offices. This mercury, which is from the amalgam, enters the environment in numerous ways like being discharged into water bodies. When they combine with other microorganisms, they give rise to methylmercury which is an extremely toxic kind of mercury that gets accumulated by marine creatures such as fish, or fish eating animals. Humans who consume such fish become vulnerable to methylmercury.

Amalgam refers to the mixture of mercury with other metals used by dentists during routine cavity fillings. While removing the previous fillings or while clearing the extra amalgam using a fresh filling, mercury invariably gets released. This then reaches the environment in many ways, such as being discharged into water bodies.

In fact, numerous state and local Government bodies have started amalgam discharge reduction programs, which have made it mandatory for the dentists to use amalgam separators or similar methods in their offices, in order to reduce this form of dental waste.

Kenneth Kopocis the deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water stated, “This is a common sense rule that calls for capturing mercury at a relatively low cost before it is dispersed into the POTW.” He further stated that “The rule would strengthen human health protection by requiring removals based on the use of a technology and practices that approximately 40 percent of dentists across the country already employ thanks to the ADA (American Dental Association) and our state and local partners.”

The EPA will also consider public reactions and comments regarding this proposal over the coming two months after it is published in the Federal Register. However, the agency believes that the law will be finalized by this coming September.


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