Dental waste

Dental offices are required to properly handle and dispose of dangerous waste. Common forms of dangerous waste in dental offices can come from:

  • Amalgam waste and x-ray materials.
  • Pharmaceuticals.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting solutions.
  • Fluorescent lightbulbs.
  • Lead.

Most dental offices are considered small quantity generators (SQGs) and can manage their dangerous waste under these rules.

Need to submit the One-Time Compliance Report for Dental Dischargers?
Some qualifying dental offices may need to submit this report since the EPA finalized their guidelines. Learn more about the One-Time Compliance Report for Dental Dischargers and how to file it correctly.

Amalgam wastes

Dental amalgam is an alloy that contains mercury, silver, tin, copper, and other metals. Mercury levels vary, but most dental amalgams exceed environmentally-safe mercury levels. Amalgam wastes contaminate:

  • Chair-side traps.
  • Vacuum pump filters.
  • Septic systems.

Amalgam wastes often carry the waste codes D009 (for mercury) and D011 (for silver).

How to recycle or dispose of amalgam waste

Recycle both scrap (non-contact) and contact amalgam through an amalgam recycler or hazardous waste hauler. Your recycler will have specific requirements you need to follow in order for them to take it.

  • Store all contact and non-contact scrap amalgam inside tightly closed containers.
  • Label the containers: Dangerous Waste Mercury and Toxic.
  • If you must disinfect, do not use any method that uses heat. Heat turns mercury volatile.
  • If you store scrap amalgam under used x-ray fixer, water, or other liquid, do not decant the liquid down the drain.

Keep scrap amalgam out of:

  • Sharps containers, or where it will end up in the red biohazard bag.
  • Trash bins.
  • Drains.
  • High-speed suctions (like the vacuum line).

Instructions for specific types of amalgam waste

X-ray materials and lead

Other common dangerous waste at dental offices include x-ray materials and lead. Follow the instructions for each type of waste for guidance on how to dispose of these materials properly.

Other common dangerous wastes in dental offices 

You may have more than what is on the above list. Contact your regional Ecology office to get help. Our staff can help identify rules you need to follow and answer questions.

What is not considered dangerous waste?

Dangerous waste does not include:

  • Biohazards. 
  • Infectious wastes (like, swabs saturated with blood).

One-time compliance report for dental dischargers

The EPA's finalized Dental Effluent Guidelines (federal rule 40 CFR Part 441) require qualifying dental offices submit a one-time compliance report.