dental waste disposal

Last updated on October 28, 2019

Like all medical offices, a dental practice generates medical wastes that require careful handling and disposal. Each type of dental waste is governed by specific state and federal regulations. Regulatory non-compliance can result in large fines, so it’s important to understand the requirements.

Compliance is more than a financial issue, however. Improper handling and disposal of waste can spread disease and put employees and the public at risk. Proper handling and disposal help you reduce workplace injuries, control costs, and protect the public and environment from harmful substances.

Sharps Compliance offers an affordable, convenient selection of disposal solutions for each waste stream.

Disposal of Dental Carpules and Other Dental Sharps

Are used dental anesthetic carpules classified as medical waste?  It depends on several factors.

  • Contains visible blood: The carpule is classified as sharps medical waste and must be placed in a sharps container.
  • Empty, unbroken, no traces of blood or anesthetic: In some states, these carpules can be placed in regular trash but may break during handling/disposal and present a danger. Disposal depends on each state’s definition of a medical sharp and whether they consider any glass, broken or unbroken, to be a sharp.
  • Broken carpules, no traces of blood or anesthetic: Some states require incineration, so check your state’s regulations regarding disposal and transport to a medical waste treatment facility for proper disposal.
  • Carpules containing residual anesthetic: These are considered pharmaceutical waste and must be labeled as such and transported to a medical waste facility for proper treatment. Some states have special guidelines for evaluating pharmaceutical wastes. Always check your state’s requirements.

States regulate carpule disposal, and regulations change over time. Make sure you understand the requirements and are following the most current guidelines.

Other dental sharps that require disposal in sharps containers include:

  • Endo files
  • Needles, including sutures, and IV needles
  • Ortho wires
  • Scalpel blades

Sharps Compliance provides your busy office with dental sharps disposal options that combine affordability with convenience and regulatory compliance. Our biohazard mailback systems include a primary collection container, prepaid return shipping in a sturdy shipping box, a waste manifest tracking form, and instructions for use. They provide complete cradle-to-grave compliance with local, state, and federal regulations. TakeAway Recovery Systems offer small quantity generators a cost-effective treatment solution for used sharps and healthcare wastes.

TakeAway Environmental Return Systems are the ideal solution for disposal of unused, non-controlled medications and used dental carpules with trace anesthetic (without blood).

Our TakeAway systems come in a variety of sizes and configurations. Contact us for help selecting the best option for your practice.

Dental Red Bag Waste

Dental practices also generate small quantities of non-sharp regulated medical wastes (RMW) which must also be handled according to regulatory guidelines. “Red bag” waste could include items that can potentially spread bloodborne pathogens, such as:

  • Materials saturated with blood or OPIM
  • OPIM or blood-soaked personal protective equipment
  • Items caked with dried blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) and capable of releasing during handling

Because these items carry the risk of infection, staff must be thoroughly trained on the proper handling and disposal of red bag items. That training provides a double benefit: it protects health and safety by separating potentially infectious wastes from other trash. Additionally, since it’s more expensive to dispose of RMW than it is to dispose of regular trash, it’s important that staff is properly trained on what goes into the red biohazard container – and what does not.

Because dental practices generate so little red bag waste, Sharps Compliance offers a cost-effective way to dispose of it using our 20-gallon TakeAway Recovery System. The waste can be placed in the same 20-gallon container as the used sharps containers. Offices that purchase multipacks of sharps containers can use the 5-gallon Medical Professional Pail to dispose of the tied, individual red bags.

Disposal of Dental Amalgam Waste

The use of amalgam separators to prevent amalgam from discharging into publicly owned treatment works (POTWS) will soon be mandatory. The EPA amalgam separator rule becomes effective as of July 14, 2020 for all existing and new dental practices.

An amalgam – commonly called a “silver filling” – is an alloy composed of liquid mercury, tin, copper, and silver. When dentists either place or remove amalgam fillings without discharge safeguards, mercury can be released into the wastewater stream. According to the EPA, studies have shown that dental offices are the largest source of mercury discharges to POTWs, contributing about half of the mercury received by POTWs.” The resulting compounds are highly toxic, particularly to infants and children.

Once a dental practice installs a compliant amalgam separator, it needs to employ a compliant recycling program to manage the separator and collected mercury.

Sharps Compliance’s 5-gallon Dental Amalgam Recycling System contains two pails. The small inner pail is lined with a silver foil bag for small amounts of amalgam-containing items that have come in contact with blood and saliva, sludge from filters, and teeth with amalgam. Use the outer pail to safely recycle other dental materials like lead foils, non-contact amalgam, old radiographs, containerized x-ray fixer, and used lead aprons. The system provides collection and shipment for recycling through UPS.

Single-Use Device Recycling

Nearly every dental procedure will result in the disposal of single-use devices (SUDs). Prophylaxis angles, impression trays, and dental burs are just a few such disposable items. SUDs are typically not designed to be reprocessed as the materials are difficult to disinfect and sterilize. If bloodied during intraoperative work, SUDs might have to be disposed of as regulated medical waste.

Alternately, most dental SUDs can be recycled via TakeAway Recycle Systems, which decrease the burden on your local landfill and streamline the disposal process of all your SUDs, regardless of the level of contamination. Additionally, once instruments have reached their end-of-useful-life, they too may be recycled via the TakeAway Recycle System.  Once processed and treated at our disposal facility, a Certificate of Recycling as well as Sustainability Reports are provided via your SharpsTracer account.

Handling Waste in Your Dental Office

Every medical professional must take waste disposal seriously because regulators do. For example, New Jersey legislators passed a bill in 2012 that said medical professionals who illegally dispose of medical waste could lose their licenses.

Still, in a busy dental practice, compliance can feel like an overwhelming task. Let Sharps Compliance help.

ComplianceTrac is an online compliance and training management system.

  • Training: Employees have access to in-depth training videos allowing them to train on their own schedule and receive instant certification. Training subjects include OSHA bloodborne pathogen, HazCom, Medicare, HIPAA, and others.
  • Safety Data Sheets (MSDS/SDS): ComplianceTrac offers a database of thousands of safety data sheets where you can create individualized lists of SDSs specific to your facility along with the required corresponding Chemical Inventory List.
  • Safety plans: Develop customized OSHA required safety plans for your office using the fill-in-the-blank plans in ComplianceTrac.
  • Workplace audits: With ComplianceTrac, perform regular workplace audits, assign corrective action to individuals, and generate reports showing audit results as well as the status of corrective measures taken.

SharpsTracer helps you track and verify the receipt and treatment of returned waste. It helps avoid paperwork errors by eliminating the need for paper-based manifest tracking and on-site paper document storage.

Contact Sharps Compliance to learn more about our medical and pharmaceutical waste collection and treatment solutions for your dental practice.

Wanda Voigt holds a BA in Nursing from Texas Woman’s University and a BBA in Business Management from Texas A&M University. In Fall 2021, Wanda will begin her Master Jurisprudence in Health Law and Policy at Texas A&M University. Wanda has over 20 years of clinical practice in both hospital and private practice practicing in various specialties.

As the Director of Regulatory Compliance, Wanda assists Sharps’ customers in evaluating current federal and state-specific medical and pharmaceutical waste regulations, implementing compliant regulated medical and pharmaceutical waste management programs and processes, and developing training programs for both internal and external customers.

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