Dealing with medical waste isn’t just for hospitals—it’s also pertinent to smaller clinics, doctors offices and dental facilities. Most dental offices don’t just do routine screenings and cleanings, but also do surgeries, which means they produce standard medical waste, such as gauze and sharps, as well as surgical and pathological waste, which have to be very specifically dealt with under state laws.
Below are five must-know facts for dental offices regarding medical waste:
Create Written Policies
Even if you’re a dental office that doesn’t have a great deal of medical waste to deal with, it’s still advisable to establish written policies and guidelines showing employees how to handle a variety of situations. This can be valuable not just to inform your staff of protocol, but it can also be useful if you do run into a situation where a regulatory audit might be required. Make sure policies about regulated medical waste are as clear and precise as possible.
Be Aware of The Types of Waste
In a dental office, there are usually five categories of regulated waste which include bulk blood or blood products, as well as potentially infectious materials, items soaked or caked with blood or saliva, waste that involves removed teeth, sharps and potential sharps that may not have broken but could. The classification of waste will determine how it must be dealt with.
Learn Regulations Regarding Heavy Metals
One area of waste management that is of particular relevance in the dental industry involves heavy metals. The EPA, as well as state governments, determine how heavy metals can and should be disposed of, including silver and mercury. There may also be local regulations and laws in place about the disposal of metals, so it’s important for dental offices to be very aware of both federal and localized regulations before getting rid of any metal that could originate from the removal of a tooth or a dental procedure.
If you operate a dental practice that already works with a professional medical waste disposal company, and you want to lower costs a bit, you might consider reducing the frequency of your pickup service. Many dental offices don’t produce massive amounts of waste, so they may be able to reasonably get by with fewer pickups to save money. Just make sure that before you make that decision, you’re aware of state and local regulations as to how much waste you can keep on site at any given time.
Determine How Teeth Are Classified
Teeth are obviously one of the biggest areas of concern in a dental office, and it’s important to check at the state level and see how they’re classified. Most states classify them as pathological waste, although some states don’t. If they are considered pathological, teeth should be put in a sharps container or red bag, unless they contain amalgam. Some offices and states may allow for teeth to be returned to a patient as an alternative to waste disposal.
Creating a Compliant Dental Office
Following the above tips can help you ensure your dental office is completely compliant, so you not only avoid fines or penalties but also so that your staff and patients are as healthy and safe as possible in your facility.