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How dental offices should dispose of sharps

How dental offices should dispose of sharps

Dental offices generate a lot of waste. Some of that waste needs to be disposed of properly and there are regulations in place that ensure this happens.

In dental offices, medical waste falls into several regulated categories include dental amalgam, pharmaceuticals and sharps, among others.

Sharps are the most common medical waste in dental offices, according to AEGIS Dental Network.

Sharps are also the most publicly recognized form of medical waste. That's because federal and state governments often advertise not only to medical professionals, but also to the general public on how to properly dispose of sharps.

At dental offices, it's important to know and follow all regulations when it comes to disposing of sharps that need to be thrown away. Needles, scalpel blades, anesthetic carpules and orthodontic wires are all examples of sharps found in dental offices.

There are ways, however, to make sure your dental practice is in compliance with regulations concerning sharps disposal without the hassle.

Why proper sharps disposal is so important

Sharps present an injury risk to dental office employees and customers. One reason for frequent public awareness campaigns about sharps disposal is the fact that sharps are dangerous if not correctly discarded.

According to the FDA, about 850,000 people are injured each year because of sharps that were thrown away incorrectly. Sharps that have been used can cause cuts and spread infections and diseases.

In dental offices, most sharps-related injuries are caused by accidental punctures. By adhering to the following tips in this blog, dental offices can not only reduce the risk of injuries, but also come into compliance with how to handle and dispose of sharps in the first place.

Use the right sharps disposal containers

Sharps should never be thrown into your office's general trash or recycling. They must be discarded in a proper container.

These containers can be portable travel containers, vertical drop slot containers or horizontal drop slot containers. OSHA requires sharps containers to be puncture-resistant, completely closeable, leak-proof, labeled and red in color and have a biohazard symbol that's easy to see somewhere on the container.

Sharps containers should also have a fill-to line, writes Noel Brandon Kelsch for rdhmag.com. Users should be able to easily see how full the container is before putting more sharps inside.

The containers also need to have openings large enough that the entire needle or blade can fit inside.

Finally, the container's lid should not only close, but also seal completely to prevent leaks or spills during transportation.

Organize your office correctly

Sharps containers must be placed in specific areas in order to be in compliance with regulations. Any room where procedures that require sharps are performed must have a sharps disposal container.

Dentists should put sharps disposal containers in areas that are both easy to see and easy to reach without reaching upward. Citing a CDC publication, AEGIS Dental Network also states sharps containers shouldn't be placed under sinks, in cabinets, on the back of doors or in any other area of the office that experiences heavy foot traffic.

Discard sharps containers the right way

The FDA states that dentists should stop using a sharps container once it is about 2/3 full (or to the fill-to line). Once the container reaches that point, it must be closed as instructed on the label found on the container.

From there, the containers must be brought to a sharps disposal program. There are different types of programs, such as mail-back programs, a waste pick-up service, syringe exchange program, drop box, supervised collection site or a hazardous waste collection site.

Help employees understand proper disposal

It's important that each employee in your dental office knows how to dispose of sharps the right way. As Dental Enhancements Inc. recommends, ensure that employees are aware that they can't carry or re-handle medical waste.

Employees should always dispose of sharps and other waste at the point-of-use, or where the items have actually been in contact with a patient or other material. This helps protect everyone in the office, employees and patients, from being exposed to potential infections or diseases.

Make sure everyone on staff is knowledgeable about both federal and state regulations. Every state has medical waste regulations and some differ in certain ways. Most states regulate how packaged medical waste should be covered, stored and transported.

With sharps, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration also has regulations that must be followed. OSHA's standards relate directly to employees. They dictate how medical waste must be stored, labeled and how employees should be trained in handling medical waste.

Every employee of a dental practice should be knowledgeable of these regulations and how to dispose of dental waste.

Save money with the right disposal service partner

DRNA has an established reputation has experts in the dental care waste management industry. We have done away with the need for expensive hauling, which saves money on trucking and fuel costs. We also have no contracts to sign.

Dental offices that partner with DRNA cut costs by purchasing a dental waste disposal service that makes managing all regulated waste materials, including sharps, simple.

DRNA offers a range of kit sizes from 1.5 quart to 30 gallons, so dental offices can choose the best size for their practice.

These kits are mailed back with full, making disposal easy. The kids also include approved packaging materials with a prepaid return label and a waste manifest with proof of destruction. All our kits, once full, are properly incinerated, not dumped in a landfill.

The best dental waste management service providers also can help determine how frequently an office will need to have its waste picked up. Most dental offices don't create a tremendous amount of waste, so decreasing the number of pick-ups is a good way to lower costs.

Bundled services make disposal even easier

Make your dental practice's waste management even easier by bundling disposal services. DRNA offers amalgam, pharmaceutical, sharps, medical waste and x-ray chemistry disposal, plus x-ray lead foil, x-ray chemistry and amalgam recycling services.

Send a message today to learn more about the solutions we offer.