Identifying and Separating Medical Waste in a Dental Office
Dental offices are subject to the rules that govern medical waste disposal in the same manner that other health facilities are. It is considered a health imperative by a number of government agencies to properly dispose and remove biological waste from dental offices in a manner that is safe for employees, patients, and the general public.
Regardless of the type of dental practice you have, there will always be the presence of biological waste that must be dealt with appropriately. In order to accomplish this, it is important that you contract with a medical waste disposal company that understands the specific needs generated by the health services you provide.
The following biological waste is typically found generated at dental offices:
- Blood containing swabs and dressings
- Bodily fluids such as saliva
- Sharps such as needles which are used to puncture the skin and administer anesthesia or medications
- Metal wires that are used to affix teeth in place
All of these items are recognized for potentially containing virus or disease pathogens. In order to avoid the spread of these infections, all biological waste that is produced during dental care must be disposed of in accordance with federal and state guidelines.
Dental Exam Rooms and Biological Waste Disposal Success
The primary point of biological waste generation is in your dental exam rooms where the patient is being treated. Since treatment is confined to the dental chair, having your biological waste containers accessible should be an easy standard to implement. A small red bag container can be placed close to where procedures are performed, with a sharps container mounted on the wall for the collection of contaminated needles.
If your dental office works with dental amalgams, you will also need to take into consideration the special collection of those particles. Dental amalgam particles are a known source of the mineral mercury, which is found to be toxic for human consumption. Special care is taken to ensure that these particles are not released into the ground for fear that they could seep into reservoirs that are meant for drinking water.
Any scrap amalgam that is produced cannot be treated with regular medical waste. If present when autoclaved, it will present an immediate health hazard when the door is open. Dental work by-products that may contain this substance must be separated at the source and specially marked for its proper disposal.
Disposing of Extracted Teeth in a Dental Office
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has defined teeth as a bloodborne pathogen, and subjects them to the same standards as other medical waste in a dental office. They are potentially infectious and should immediately be placed inside of a medical waste container to be disposed of with other biological materials. The only exception are teeth that have been extracted and contain an amalgam filling. These should be disposed of in a container that is clearly marked for “scrap amalgam” only.
Medical waste disposal for dental offices can become complicated, depending on the type of services you are providing. In order to avoid overlooking any of the regulations that pertain to your practice, it is recommended that you partner with a waste management company that is accredited by the state and knowledgeable in the special waste disposal needs of your practice.