Dentists and dental practices must be well-versed in many regulations that affect their industry. This includes waste management, a very broad area considering how many different types of waste are handled in dental facilities.
Dental waste management best practices must cover dental amalgam, silver, clinical waste, pharmaceutical waste and sharps. With all that to handle, it's no wonder the American Dental Association says adhering to today's regulations and guidelines is one of the most significant challenges of running a dental practice.
By knowing about waste regulations and how to remain compliant with them with current best practices, dentists are able to assure their patients and colleagues of a safe environment. Establishing that environment is also a good business practice that better sets up the office for success.
However, not all ways to remain in compliance with regulations regarding waste management are created equal. That's why it is critical for dental practices to follow a set of waste management best practices to ensure their facilities are as safe and successful as possible.
Healthcare facilities, including dentist offices, frequently use equipment and other items that generate waste that could pose safety risks to both patients and employees. This includes gauze or other equipment that collects bodily fluids (blood, for example), sterilizing chemicals, disinfectants and sharps.
There are many best practices in place for these types of waste that all dental practices should commit to following. By doing so, they can assure patients and employees that they are in a safe facility that prioritizes protecting those who work or seek treatment there.
Many of the waste types encountered in dental facilities are regulated because of the harm they could pose to the environment. A dental office that emphasizes best waste management practice can demonstrate to both their employees and patients that they take seriously a commitment to promoting environmentally friendly waste management.
Of specific concern in dental offices are amalgam and silver waste. Both of these substances, when in large quantities, can pose potential health risks to humans and other environmental concerns, as well.
Amalgam, which contains mercury, has been shown by numerous studies to be safe for treating cavities. However, the small amount of mercury found in fillings can build up in dental facilities where treatments are done often and waste builds up over time.
Mercury in large amounts is known to be a health concern to humans and harmful to the environment, so dental practices must be careful not to let the substance collect in large quantities and be introduced to the environment accidentally, such as through building waste water systems.
Much of the same can be said for silver found in x-ray developer and fixer solutions. In large quantities, silver does not necessarily pose a risk to the environment, but large quantities may be cause for some concern.
Another substance of concern is lead, which can be found in aprons containing lead foil or x-ray packets. The health and environment concerns of improper exposure to lead are well-documented and show just why every facility that handles this substance must take care to ensure it is used and disposed of properly.
Regulations on dental amalgam waste are about to change, too.
On July 14, 2020, new regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency requiring the use of amalgam separators will go into effect. Dental practices that take action on these new regulations sooner rather than later will be a step ahead of their peers. They also won't have to scramble to learn about new equipment and how to manage it while under the pressure of a deadline.
There is a lot to learn about the different types of amalgam separators, what type applies best to your office layout and why separators are needed in the first place.
But again, dental facilities that begin doing their research and implementing amalgam waste recycling practices now will be much more prepared and less pressured in the future when compliance is enforced.
Like other healthcare professionals, dentists must always stay on top of dental waste regulations on all levels - local, state and federal. This can present a challenge because regulations are sometimes changed.
But regulations are in place for reasons. Not only are these rules in place to ensure safety for all present, but they are also in place to help assure practices are working in ethical and environmentally conscious ways. Patients may not always comment when they notice something amiss in how a dental office operates, but they could take their business elsewhere - or file a report to the relevant governing body.
Each dental practice is responsible for ensuring that its employees are aware of and follow any regulations - on any level - that apply to their operation. As the ADA points out, some practices choose to have one person in the practice be responsible for making sure an entire office remains in compliance. However, the true responsibility always comes down to the owner of the facility.
That's why we recommend finding a comprehensive dental waste management solutions partner who can ease some of that burden.
As a business owner, or as someone charged with keeping a dental office in compliance, managing and implementing waste management best practices for an entire facility can seem overwhelming. But there are waste management solutions providers who can help you focus more on the dental practice and less on regulations and compliance.
DRNA is proud to have built a reputation as the complete regulatory solution for the entire dental community. We partner with dental practices and similar facilities in providing waste management products, offering continuing education and sharing a deep knowledge of compliance and regulatory requirements.
We are a recognized leader in dental waste management and would enjoy the opportunity helping you navigate the rules and regulations pertaining to your practice. Contact us to see how we can put our years of experience to work for your practice.