What Dentists Should Know About Hazardous Waste

Updated on April 4, 2023
What Dentists Should Know About Hazardous Waste

All industries work with specific materials that professionals within that industry consider commonplace. Lawyers consider legal documents commonplace. Artists consider paint commonplace. Accountants consider calculators commonplace. Dentists consider amalgam commonplace.

Regardless of what professionals within an industry consider normal, some of these materials can’t go into common waste receptacles, especially dental waste. If you’re opening your own dental practice for the first time or are trying to improve your practice’s waste efficiency, there’s a lot you should know about hazardous waste. Dentists, keep reading to learn more about hazardous waste management for your practice.

Metallic Waste

Most dentists use amalgam to repair damaged, decaying teeth. Amalgam contains multiple metals, including mercury, that are hazardous. This means you can’t throw anything that has contacted amalgam away in normal trash cans. You need to clean and throw away whatever you mix the amalgam in and use to apply it as hazardous waste. Try to perform the same steps every time you use amalgam so that you know what tools will require separate, hazardous disposal.

X-Ray Waste

X-rays are an important part of all dental practices, allowing you to see better inside your patient’s mouth. Most people know that X-ray machines release small amounts of radiation, but you’re not regularly throwing away X-ray machines, so you may think everything is fine. However, X-ray fixer contains a considerable amount of silver, which is hazardous. Additionally, X-ray developer contains multiple hazardous solvents, such as hydroquinone. Your practice will need to have a plan for when it’s time to throw away these materials so that the disposal is safe for your employees, garbage collectors, and the environment.

Biohazardous Waste

There are nine classes of hazardous waste that you should know, and biohazardous is probably the most obvious for a dental practice. Biohazardous is not its own class but often falls within infectious substances. All biohazardous waste, such as teeth and needles, should have specific labels so that everyone who handles it knows of the potential hazard. While you regularly work with these materials and may not think they’re a big deal, your practice must consider the safety of others. Waste management professionals deserve to know when materials are biohazardous so that they can protect themselves, just as you do when you wear rubber gloves.

There’s a lot of information that dentists should know about hazardous waste. Understanding that the materials you regularly work with are often hazardous is a good place to start. No matter how commonplace a material is to you, that doesn’t mean others outside of your industry understand it. All industries work to help each other, so as you care for the teeth of waste management personnel, you should throw out hazardous materials safely so that they can care for your business and your community.

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