A Simple Guide to Common Dental Wastes

There’s a lot of good that can come from a visit to the dentist – relief from pain, preventative measures, routine maintenance and cleaning. But while the hassle is generally short-lived for the patient, that’s not always the case for the practice.

In order for dental practices to effectively administer their services, they must use processes and equipment that generate dental waste. There are many different kinds of dental waste.

The most common are:

  • Amalgam wastes:

Amalgam is used to fix decayed teeth. It is made up of various metals and held together by mercury, and can be found in many place in a dentist’s office: vacuum pump filters, amalgam separators, chair-side traps, and as left-over from capsule mixing. Click here if you need to purchase an Amalgam Separator.

  • Pathologic wastes:

This includes anything potentially infectious, such as blood and teeth, and belong in bio-hazard bags.

  • X-ray fixer:

This is a waste with a high-silver content that is generated by photographic x-ray machines.

  • Unused X-ray developer:

Though developer solutions have a low silver-content, they do contain the toxic chemical hydroquinone. When the developer is used, the hydroquinone is conveniently eliminated in the developing process. For this reason, only unused x-ray developer is considered a problem.

  • Cleaning solutions:

Cleaning and disinfecting solutions that could be troublesome include sterilants with hazardous materials like acetone, phenols, bleaches, formaldehydes, and ammonia. It’s also important to remember that cleaners for X-ray developer systems contain chromium, and are considered hazardous waste.

  • Lead foil:

Unless recycled, the lead foil that is found in protective lead shields is considered hazardous waste.

  • Sharps:

Syringes are frequently used in dental practices to administer numbing agents. Click here to purchase a Sharps Disposal Container.


Dental waste, like any other regulated medical waste, requires proper disposal. Not all of these wastes are hazardous under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) -hydroquinone, for example – but there are still state and local government restrictions to consider. If you have dental waste or other regulated medical waste that needs to be disposed of, or any questions about hazardous materials, contact Medical Waste Experts today at 877-977-6518.


(This article was originally featured on the Hazardous Waste Experts blog.)


Photo Credit: Conor Lawless via Compfight cc