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Biological Waste Disposal for Dental Offices

Biological Waste Disposal for Dental Offices

The Do’s and Don’ts of Biological Waste Disposal for Dental Offices

The handling of biological waste in your dental office may not seem like it should be a priority for you, but it is to a number of different government agencies for various reasons. In order to stay out of trouble with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and your local authorities, follow these basic rules for biological waste disposal for dental offices:

  • Do educate yourself and your employees on the rules and regulations surrounding biological waste and its correct handling and disposal processes.
  • Do work with a licensed and insured medical waste disposal company that is familiar with the specific needs of a dental office.
  • Do ensure that any plan devised for the management of biological waste inside of your dental office is specific to the needs of your facility.
  • Do place sharps containers in areas that are easily accessible to dental care providers as they work with patients.
  • Do make sure that all employees in your office are able to identify and segregate medical waste from common trash.

While that may all seem simple enough, you will quickly see that proper biological waste management is a lot more about what you should NOT do:

  • Don’t allow your medical waste to get mixed in with your regular trash.
  • Don’t place any sharps, including metal wires used for braces, inside of a plastic bag that can be punctured.
  • Don’t forget to label all biological waste containers with your office name, address and telephone number.
  • Don’t allow biological waste to be emptied into a container that has not been labeled for its collection.
  • Don’t let biological waste be put inside of a reusable container loosely. Always ensure that it is secured inside of a red bag or sharps container first.
  • Don’t allow biohazard containers, bags and sharps containers to become more than 3/4 full before replacing it with an empty container.
  • Don’t mistake amalgam, silver, lead foil packets and caustic cleaning agents as biological waste. These are all classified differently and need to be handled separate from the medical waste disposal containers in your dental office.
  • Don’t attempt to take on biological waste disposal management by yourself. Mistakes in practices and procedures will not only lead to large fines, they could pose a major public health hazard.

No matter how small your dental practice is, it is not wise to just wash your biological waste down the drain. Educate yourself on the local and federal regulations for medical waste, and then pass that knowledge down to all of your employees. It may seem like a lot of work for a modest office, but once you have your biological waste disposal company in place, all of your trash should end up where it belongs.

Medical Waste Disposal for Dental Offices

Medical Waste Disposal for Dental Offices

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.

Medical Waste Disposal for Dental Offices

Medical Waste Disposal for Dental Offices

Knowledge and Standards in Operations are Critical for Controlling Medical Waste Disposal in a Dental Office

Dental care generates its own waste products, most of which can be disposed of as a part of your office trash removal program. Some products however cannot simply be thrown in the trash, and require specialized systems for their disposal. If you and your dental office employees are not aware of these items and proper methods for disposal, you are creating a health risk in your office.

There are two types of medical waste generated inside of a dental office; regulated medical waste and hazardous chemical waste. They both need to have their own system of labeling and disposal in order to meet OSHA and state safe handling guidelines. Failure to do so could result in fines for your dental office as well as the potential health risks to you, your staff and your patients.

Hazardous Waste in a Dental Office

There are a number of products being used in a typical dental office that are designated as hazardous waste. This includes:

  • The chemicals used to process X-rays
  • X-ray film
  • Acid etch
  • Disinfectants
  • Some Adhesives
  • Monomers
  • Lead foil, and
  • Amalgam

Amalgam is the most well known hazardous waste associated with dental offices. Since it does contain mercury its disposal is highly regulated on the state and federal level.

Creating an Effective Medical Waste Disposal Strategy in a Dental Office

The management of hazardous and medical waste is a time and money taxing process. Flaws in your current system must first be identified before changes in policy can be made to correct them. Yet the alternative to creating an effective medical waste disposal plan could be expensive fines and loss of business, deeming it a necessity in your dental office.

Substitution of hazardous materials is a good place to start, as there are alternatives readily available. For example, if your current sanitizing solutions fall under the hazardous material category, you can replace it with one that is just as effective without being harmful. X-ray chemicals in your dental office can be eliminated by switching to a digital radiograph system.

Another solution is to recycle certain dental by-products rather than dispose of them. Old crowns, lead foil and dental amalgam can all be recycled inside a proper facility for use in other applications.

Medical waste disposal for dental offices includes sharps such as needles used to administer anesthesia, and gauze that has been contaminated by blood and other bodily fluids. These need to be separated from other dental office trash and managed by a professional medical waste disposal company. Gloves, bibs, and gauze that does release blood when compressed also need to be disposed of in a manner where there is no chance of accidental bare handed contact by office staff or cleaning specialists.

Your local regulatory agency is your best source of information for the specific requirements of your dental office. Dental practices will generate at least one type of waste in their daily practices, but having clearing defined its proper handling with all staff will ensure that you are meeting all the guidelines for managing its disposal.