A Guide to Dental Waste Management

Dental offices create many types of waste that require careful handling. OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard details how certain wastes should be handled and what to do if someone is exposed to potentially hazardous materials. Dental personnel should be trained on proper handling of dental waste management and disposal procedures to minimize exposure risks and protect the environment.

Types of Dental Waste

Dentistry generates both hazardous and regulated medical waste (RMW). The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends dental healthcare settings have policies and procedures for safely handling waste during segregation, storage, packaging, disposal, and transportation. They should also have a detailed record-keeping system.

Dental waste handling and disposal should follow federal, state, and local requirements to reduce the risk of disease transmission. The appropriate containers should be provided, maintained, replaced, stored, and logged for disposal. Below, we will cover common types of dental waste and how to handle them.

Hazardous Waste

Waste is considered hazardous if it displays one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Ignitability – flammable materials that combust easily
  • Corrosivity – materials that corrode or dissolve metals, or burn skin
  • Reactivity – material that may react with water, give off toxic gases or explode
  • Toxicity – materials that are harmful when ingested or absorbed

A common type of hazardous waste handled in dental offices is amalgam. Dental amalgam is a liquid mercury and metal alloy mixture used to fill cavities. Even if your practice does not place amalgam fillings, you will still generate mercury waste from drilling into teeth with amalgam fillings already in place.

Dental offices must operate and maintain an amalgam separator according to the final EPA amalgam rule. Dentists who place amalgam fillings must place amalgam capsules into buckets and send them to a certified disposal company. Pulled teeth with amalgam fillings must also be placed in amalgam disposal containers.  

Regulated Medical Waste

RMW is any material that has been contaminated with blood, bodily fluids, or other potentially infectious materials (OPIMs). Definitions vary by state, so be sure to research specific information for your area. RMW commonly handled in dentistry include:

Medical Waste Pros can help you with your dental waste management
  • Blood and bodily fluid waste – items saturated with blood, caked with dried blood, or contaminated by bodily fluids during dental procedures
  • Pathological waste – tissues, body parts, or fluids removed during dental procedures (does not include extracted teeth)
  • Cultures and stocks
  • Used sharpsHypodermic needles, syringes, and suture needles used in patient care

You should separate and place RMW in the appropriate container. There are specific containers for biohazardous waste and sharps. Following guidelines from your state and the Department of Transportation (DOT), label and package your waste. You should only pathological waste for incineration.

Store your packaged waste in compliance with local guidelines and schedule pickup with a certified medical waste professional. Your provider will properly treat and dispose of the materials.

Pharmaceutical Waste

Unused or partially used medications or any item containing medications is considered pharmaceutical waste. Medications pose a risk to both humans and the environment. The EPA and your state’s health department regulate the proper disposal of pharmaceuticals. Mailback and onsite collection disposal options are available based on your needs.        

Keep Your Dental Practice in Compliance with Medical Waste Pros

Medical Waste Pros offers customized dental waste services to maintain safety and compliance for your practice. We provide cost-effective waste management programs specific to the needs of dental professionals. Give us a call at (888) 755-6370 or fill out the form to learn more. We will connect you with certified providers in your area and send you free quotes within minutes.