All Points Medical Waste Blog

Hazardous Waste in Dental Practices

What Are the Different Types of Medical Waste and How to Safely Dispose of Them

A young woman is reclined in a dentist's chair and a dental professional wearing PPE is inspecting her teeth.Just like other healthcare facilities, dental practices generate a variety of hazardous medical waste. Proper handling, storage and disposal of these dental wastes is crucial to protect the patients, employees and the environment. Here’s a guide on the different types of medical waste produced by dental practices and how to safely dispose of them.

Types of Hazardous Waste in Dental Practices

Whether a general dentist, a dental surgeon, a periodontist or other dental specialist, all dental practices generate several types of medical waste–many of which are considered hazardous. These include the following:

Chemical Waste

Dental practices can generate various types of chemical waste, which must be managed and disposed of properly to ensure safety and compliance.

  • Amalgam Waste: Dental amalgam is a substance that is used to fill cavities caused by tooth decay. Amalgam is a mixture of metals, consisting of liquid mercury and a powdered alloy composed of silver, tin and copper. Because it contains mercury, amalgam waste can be toxic to humans, wildlife and the environment.
  • X-ray Fixer and Developer Solutions: Chemicals that are used in traditional film X-ray processing contain hazardous substances like silver and chromium. These chemicals can be dangerous if disposed of improperly.
  • Disinfectants and Sterilizers: Dental practices use a variety of chemicals to sterilize dental instruments. These cleaning products often contain hazardous chemicals that must be properly disposed of to protect patients, staff and the environment.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Medications used in dental procedures, expired or unused medications and anesthetics must be safely stored and disposed of.

Biohazardous Waste

There are several types of biohazardous waste that are produced by dentists. This category of waste includes materials that have been in contact with bodily fluids or tissues. Biohazardous waste can pose a risk for infection. Types of biohazardous waste include the following:

  • Sharps: Needles, scalpel blades and other sharp instruments are considered biohazardous waste and can put patients, staff and visitors at risk if improperly disposed of.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Gloves, masks, gowns and face shields used by dental staff must be safely collected and disposed of to prevent risk of exposure to infectious pathogens.
  • Extracted Teeth and Tissues: All human waste that is generated from dental procedures can contain infectious materials or pathogens that can put people and animals at risk.
  • Contaminated Gauze and dressings: Any items used during dental treatments that are contaminated with blood or saliva are considered biohazardous waste.

Miscellaneous Waste

Although dental practices can generate other types of waste that is not considered hazardous, it’s important to properly dispose of it. This includes:

  • PPE that has not been in direct contact with patients
  • General Office Waste including paper, packaging materials and other non-medical waste items

Safe Disposal Is Crucial for Dental Hazardous Waste

Just like hospitals, physician’s offices and other healthcare facilities, medical waste generated by dental practices must be disposed of according to state, local and federal regulations. This is important, not only to ensure the safety of patients, staff and the community, but also to remain in compliance. Non-compliance of medical waste disposal laws can lead to violations and fines as well as loss of public trust.

Disposal of Chemical Waste in Dental Practices

  • Amalgam Waste must be collected in an appropriate amalgam separator compliant with medical waste disposal guidelines.
  • X-ray Fixer and Developer Solutions must be collected separately and disposed of by a reputable medical waste disposal provider.
  • Disinfectants and Sterilants can require certain steps before disposal, including neutralizing the chemicals beforehand to ensure safety.
  • Pharmaceutical Waste should be properly disposed of, either by returning unused or expired items to the manufacturer or by following guidelines for pharmaceutical disposal.

Biohazardous Waste Disposal

  • Sharps should be collected in authorized sharps containers that are puncture proof and have a locking lid. They should never be overfilled and must be disposed of by a medical waste provider on a regular basis.
  • Contaminated PPE should be placed in designated biohazard bags and sealed securely before disposal.
  • Extracted Teeth and Tissues should be safely collected and stored in leak-proof containers that are clearly marked as biohazard. These items must be disposed of by a licensed and reputable medical waste disposal company.
  • Soiled Gauze and Dressings should be collected in biohazard bags and disposed of as regulations require.

Local, state, and federal regulations lay out the mandates when it comes to safe and proper disposal of dental waste. OSHA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provide guidelines on the safe handling and disposal of medical waste. It’s important to stand on top of all regulations and to continually review your dental practice’s protocols to ensure you are within compliance.

All Points Medical Waste is a full-service medical waste disposal company located in Stuart, Florida. We serve dental practices, hospitals, physician’s offices, clinics and other healthcare facilities throughout the state of Florida. Give us a call today or complete the form on this page to get a quick quote.


Dawn Connelly

Dawn is the vice president of All Points Medical Waste. All Points Medical Waste is a family-owned and operated medical waste disposal and compliance company that has been serving the Treasure Coast, Palm Beaches, and surrounding areas since 1994.
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