Dental waste management is an important aspect of your dental practice management.
Dental waste or bio waste accumulates throughout any given day in a busy dental practice. This clinical waste can include human tissue, bodily wastes, pharmaceutical products, syringes, needles, swabs and so on. Additionally, it may include x-ray fixer, developer and gypsum found in dental molds.
As in all healthcare facilities, these wastes need to be disposed of safely without any negative impact on the environment. Health and safety protocols are set to guide these disposal activities.
Amalgam – used as a restorative material – is made up of several chemicals bound together by mercury. The removal of old fillings and shaping/polishing of new fillings creates mercury-containing waste that poses a threat to the environment. Mercury has been declared a dangerous substance under the Canadian Environment Protection Act, 1999 and can do much harm if allowed to enter the environment through scrap, vapors, or waste water.
A Canada-wide standard states that amalgam traps and filters to collect the waste be implemented as a dental office’s best practice, allowing it to be recycled or disposed of in such a way that it does not enter the sewage system. An approved waste carrier should be contacted for recycling or disposal.
Used x-ray fixer and developer contains silver and are classified as hazardous under Ontario Regulation 347. Municipal bylaws place concentration limits on heavy metals such as silver entering the wastewater system which can affect aquatic life.
A dental practice should collect used fixer and developer solutions in separate containers provided by an approved waste carrier or supplier, who will then recycle or safely dispose. Silver recovery units can also be used to reclaim the silver from the fixer solution. Once the recovery cartridge is full, an approved waste carrier can recycle or dispose. Alternatively, dental practices can switch to digital equipment, eliminating the need for x-ray machines.
X-ray packets and aprons contain lead which is also classified as hazardous under Ontario Regulation 347. Lead can contaminate the soil and groundwater if disposed to landfill. An x-ray film manufacturer will often provide containers for recycling or disposal through an approved waste carrier. Lead aprons must not be disposed to the regular waste system. Approved waste carriers must be utilized for disposal.
Biomedical wastes are also classified as hazardous under Ontario Regulation 347. Bodily wastes may include blood-soaked materials, and human tissue. Extracted teeth, gauze, surgical gloves, and saliva-soaked materials are not included under the definition of biomedical waste provided they do not contain blood.
Blood-soaked materials should be collected in yellow liner bags marked with the biohazard symbol and disposed of through an approved biomedical waste carrier. If blood-soaked materials are stored on-site for more than 4 days, they should be stored in a refrigerated area, locked and separate from other supply areas.
Sharp objects used in a dental practice may include syringes, needles, and other sharp instruments such as scalpel blades and clinical glass and should be separated from any human waste. Sharps containers are puncture-resistant and leak proof and designed specifically for safe containment and disposal of these items.
Disinfectants and Other Chemicals
There are many chemicals used in dental clinics for sterilizing, disinfecting and cleaning. Some of these chemicals may be explosive if released to sewers in large enough quantities. Many of these chemicals can affect the environment adversely.
Follow the directions on Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for the proper handling and disposal of all chemicals in the dental practice. Contact your local municipality for guidelines on disposal of solvents such as ethers, alcohols, acetone or chloroform.
Using less harmful cleaning products and methods can reduce the impact on the environment and the need for special handling of waste in the dental practice.
You can ensure your dental practice is compliant by:
- Documenting the handling, transfer and disposal of all wastes from your dental practice. It is important that your dental office keeps accurate records and maintains all paperwork up-to-date.
- Choosing a waste carrier that has a certificate of approval for the transport of hazardous waste which should include multiple waste classes.
- Using recyclable containers provided by waste carriers where possible.
- Confirming that the waste carrier complies with requirements under the TDGA (Transport of Dangerous Goods Act) requirements such as labelling and containment.