With around 195,722 dentists practicing in the U.S. as of 2012 alone, you can bet there are massive amounts of dental waste being produced.
Is your practice in compliance with all the new regulations for waste management?
If you're not sure, it's time to find out!
We've made it very simple with this guide to understanding dental waste management. Here are 6 common types of dental waste and how you can dispose of them properly.
Amalgam is a combination of metals that have been chemically bonded with mercury.
Mercury is a well-known toxin that can harm the environment and people by entering through wastewater used in your office, vapors, or scraps.
Amalgam waste is one of the top dental wastes to be especially cautious with.
These requirements apply to the installation, maintenance, monitoring, and recycling of all amalgam materials.
These essential tools for your office will enable you to easily dispose of this toxic element.
They are usually placed chair-side, and work as filters for wastewater to prevent as much mercury entering the environment as possible.
Amalgam should never be disposed of down a drain, in a sharps container, or in the normal garbage.
Other things to be cautious of when disposing of amalgam:
Amalgam separators are the required standard for disposal as they can help increase the removal efficiency from the previous amount of 80% to a removal amount of 95%.
Silver is a naturally occurring metal, abundant in the makeup of the earth itself.
Fortunately, silver is one of the milder metals dentists and their teams will come into contact with.
It may not have as potentially adverse effects on human health as, say, lead or mercury, but it can still cause great environmental harm.
Many practices no longer need to worry as much about this type of waste management as x-ray fixers have now been widely replaced by digital imaging.
However, if your office continues to use an x-ray fixer, you need to be certain it is not washed down the drain as it contains a high silver content.
Instead, have an in-house silver recovery device installed to catch all silver waste.
Silver can also be placed in a biomedical waste dispenser.
Some dispensers including a 5-gallon tub can help absorb all x-ray fixer silver. These dispensers can also be purchased in smaller tubs, or a fixer recovery unit can be used for proper waste management.
We realize how nasty this type of waste sounds, but you know it's also quite common for your dental office...
In fact, any type of waste containing blood must be handled properly to avoid the spread of disease.
Some such ways include:
Resist the temptation to dispose of used gauze in the normal garbage.
Basically, this type of waste management should apply to all chemicals, but especially any used for sterilization.
Many of these chemicals are federally regulated so be especially educated on and aware of compliance regulations for these types of chemicals and their disposal methods.
If you're in doubt of how to handle these chemicals, contact a biomedical waste provider and seek instruction.
These chemicals can be greatly harmful to the environment, so when possible, try sterilizing tools with either dry heat or steam.
You've been using them since dental school, so odds are you're well aware of the proper disposal guidelines.
However, here's a refresher just to be safe.
Any sharps container must be puncture proof, (for obvious reasons), leak-proof, and properly labeled as such.
They also need to be placed in easy access locations for whomever will be using them. This being said, however, you need to sure not to have them located in high-traffic areas.
Sharps containers should never be placed in the following areas:
That's right, yet another highly dangerous chemical dentists deal with is lead.
Unfortunately, there is no safe amount of exposure to lead. Lead is a neurotoxin with irreversible effects.
At very high levels of exposure, lead can be fatal. At the very least, it causes neurological challenges.
Lead is serious business. In fact, the handling of lead-based products and chemicals should not be the dentist or his employee's business.
It should be handled by a licensed hazardous waste disposal group.
If for some reason you don't have a company currently employed to handle all your lead-based waste disposal, it's time to get one. Stat.
Some lead-containing products can include lead aprons (they can contain lead foil), or x-ray packets.
At the end of the day, proper waste management compliance effects not only you and your business but the environment and people you work with every day.
Don't risk legal troubles, loss of reputation, or harm to others by simple lack of understanding.
For help with getting started, contact us at Dental Recycling North America today.