Guide to Dental Waste Management and Compliance

Medical Waste
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The last thing a dental professional wants to worry about is fines and regulatory plans of correction regarding your dental waste. Here’s a quick primer in avoiding unnecessary hassle.

Sharps, Medical and Pharmaceutical Waste

Medical waste needs separate disposal from your regular trash when it has hazardous material or more than trace blood on it. In such a case, use a separate container specifically for your regulated (red bag) waste.

If the hazardous material is not dripping, it can be placed in a sharps container. You can dispose of these containers by mailback or onsite collection. Mailback is best for small to mid-size generators. On-site collection is best for large quantity generators of medical waste.

Dental Mercury Waste

Dental mercury has fewer components but takes more effort for proper disposal. Even dentists who do not place amalgam fillings generate mercury waste. This comes from drilling into teeth that already have amalgam fillings in them.

Now’s the time to source an amalgam recovery solution. Announced on July 2017, the final EPA amalgam rule requires dentists by July 2020 to install an amalgam separator in their practice. Federal law requires dentists who place amalgam fillings must place amalgam capsules into buckets and send them to a certified disposal company. ADA earlier adopted this as a best practice. Pulled teeth with amalgam fillings also need to be placed in amalgam disposal containers.

Dental X-Rays

Digital X rays have reduced the radiation exposure of practitioner and patient alike. ALARA principles dictate that switching to digital is not enough. As such, many dentists still use lead aprons, which need to be disposed of through a lead recycling company after they have reached the end of their use. If you use a film x-ray machine, you have more to worry about. Fixer contains silver nitrate, which you cannot pour down the drain.

Dispose of lead aprons by mailback service, onsite pickup, collecting and disposing of it yourself or using a silver recovery unit. You can dispose of in the sewer only under special circumstances.

Unused and Expired Medications

Disposing of expired or unused medications can be tricky. The EPA says one thing, and the FDA and DEA say another. To be on the safe side, you should dispose of your medications in a safe manner.

Consider the convenience of pharmaceutical waste mailback service, which allows you to drop unwanted medications into a container or envelope and mail them to a disposal service. You then receive a certificate of destruction to show compliance.

You also can take them yourself to an authorized medication disposal company. Either way, you should get a receipt of destruction. This is even more important if you carry any controlled substances.

HIPAA Dental Practice Regulations

Because of HIPAA, many dentists have gone paperless with their practice through electronic health records. This can prevent a new waste stream: confidential documents. HHS, who enforces HIPAA, has fined many hospitals and health care facilities for the improper disposal of patient records. If you are still using paper records, make sure you have them shredded and disposed of just remember to retain a receipt of disposal.


HealthFirst’s dental waste management team is always ready to help you to get the right products and solutions in place for your specific needs.  Feel free to call us at 800-331-1984.


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