There are no higher priorities in the dental industry – and any other health-related industry – than the safety and satisfaction of patients.
Part of meeting those priorities is ensuring that dental waste regulations and best practices are followed for all types of waste that are handled in a practice or similar dentistry facility. To do that, dentists and anyone else who works in those practices or facilities needs to maintain a thorough understanding not only of those regulations and best practices, but also how adhering to those regulations and best practices can keep patients safe.
Waste management and compliance is one of the many areas that can affect patient safety. It’s also the area that we know best here at DRNA. So, in this blog post, we will take a closer look at how following best practices in this area keeps your patients safe.
One of the most important types of waste handled by dental facilities this year was 2020. That’s because earlier this summer, an Environmental Protection Agency rule on dental amalgam waste went into effect for most dental practices and similar facilities.
The EPA rule focuses on how dental amalgam waste is handled to prevent the material, which contains mercury, from entering sewer and stormwater systems. Should too much of the substance enter those systems, it could become an environmental and human health concern.
We have covered at length why mercury in large quantities can affect the health of humans and negatively impact the environment. These possible health concerns are reason enough to make sure your practice is in compliance with the EPA rule and has the correct style and number of amalgam separators installed in your building.
Like amalgam waste, sharps disposal is also critical to safety. Unlike amalgam, though, it is far more likely for injuries concerning patients and employees to occur in the office or practice to involve sharps.
In fact, sharps injuries are far too common of an occurence in the workplace. With the risk of sharps injuries, which the Centers for Disease Control have noted are a serious problem, comes the possibility for the spread of bloodborne pathogens due to needlesticks and other sharps-related injuries.
This is why every practice and similar facility that performs dental procedures must have a plan for proper sharps handling and disposal. This involves steps that will keep patients safe, such as properly labeling disposal containers meant for sharps, keeping those containers out of the way but close enough to the point of use that they don’t need to be transported far to be thrown away.
As with sharps, it is also critical for those in the dental industry to have follow regulations and best practices for disposing of pharmaceutical waste.
Pharmaceutical waste can be a serious health hazard to people who are exposed to it either accidentally or improperly. As with dental amalgam waste, there are also potential environmental concerns when it comes to pharmaceuticals.
For example, some of the ingredients that may be helpful in controlled settings can be harmful to the environment and other humans if they enter water systems. This can happen if the pharmaceuticals end up in a landfill or are washed down a drain.
To avoid this pharmaceuticals must need to be handled with care. Make sure your dental practice has a plan for how to discard pharmaceuticals in safe, marked containers and another plan to ensure they are discarded in the correct manner according to local, state and federal regulations.
Every dental practice encounters hazardous and biohazardous waste on a daily basis. It’s just part of the job. But that volume of generated waste only makes its correct handling and disposal even more key to protecting the safety of patients and employees.
Hazardous waste, which is defined by the EPA as any form of waste that could prove harmful to the environment or people if not carefully discarded in a correct manner, is heavily regulated. Of course, these regulations include biohazardous waste, too.
All hazardous waste must be discarded in marked containers and then transported to facilities, typically by a third party to a facility that has the capability to properly dispose of the materials.
As far as dental facilities are concerned, the main task they are responsible for is the segregation of that hazardous waste from regular waste. Many violations that dental practices may face – and injuries caused to patients, staff and others – are the result of hazardous waste not being correctly segregated, or separated, from regular trash, especially when it comes to infectious biohazardous waste.
X-ray waste disposal is the final type of waste that we will cover in this blog post. X-ray waste must be handled and disposed of carefully because it often contains silver and lead, both of which are considered hazardous waste by the EPA.
With silver, dental practices have a few options to ensure proper disposal, one of which is installing a silver recovery unit. Another is to collect all used fixer solutions and have them taken to a disposal facility.
As for lead, dental facilities are to collect the lead and then partner with a company that specializes in lead disposal or send collected lead to a lead recycling facility.
Failure to follow these best practices can result in harm to the environment and potentially adverse effects to human and animal health.
Dental practices and similar facilities need to have plans in place for handling all types of regulated and hazardous waste. This keeps not only patients safe, but also practice employees, the dentists themselves and others, such as garbage collectors.
By partnering with a trusted dental waste management services provider, such as DRNA, you can ensure the safety of all who interact with your business and remain in compliance with local, state and federal regulations.
Learn more by contacting us.