3 Best Waste Management Practices in Dentistry

The need for waste management in dentistry has grown over the years, with hazardous waste being a threat to dental health and the dental practice.

3 Best Waste Management Practices in Dentistry

Dental health, as we know, it has a farther reach on overall health than most people give it credit for. So much so that it goes beyond human health. As it turns out, dentistry also has an impact on another aspect of our lives—the environment. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly a good one. In fact, researchers have called for better waste management in dentistry as a result of its environmental impact.

Your typical dental practice, in particular, serves as a source of hazardous waste that makes its way into landfills and water sources. The use of metals like mercury, lead, and silver in dental amalgam is a common pollutant and a toxic one at that. Left unsupervised, these metals can run off into waterways, which could reach natural bodies of water. Once there, this wastewater could wreak havoc on the surrounding ecosystem and poison the neighboring species.

Plastic is another unfortunate by-product of the dental health industry, in no small part due to their use in dental products. Whether it’s your disposable toothbrush or your well-worn toothpaste tube, these items usually end up in a landfill since they’re hard to recycle. Worse still, they don’t stay there for long. Some discarded dental products even find their way into the ocean, choking and poisoning the surrounding wildlife. 

Waste management in dentistry, then, is quickly becoming a pressing concern—particularly as the current climate crisis draws ever more urgent. What can dental professionals and those in the oral care industry do about this, then?

  1. Be accountable for the waste you produce

    The first step to intentional waste management in dentistry is knowing how much waste you actually produce. Not all dental practices are the same, after all. Taking into consideration how much hazardous waste your office provides, after all, isn’t just a necessary wake-up call. It’s also a way to target your best—and worst—waste management practices, and build a strategy regarding what you find.

    If, for instance, you find that your patients often request for dental amalgam fillings, you might want to look for alternatives that don’t require a lot of heavy metals. Or you might want to see whether your disposal methods are leak proof. Regardless, it’s an excellent way to strategize around your dental practice’s strengths and weaknesses.

  2. Make way for eco-friendly alternatives

    Now that know the top pollutants in dentistry, finding more eco-friendly options can help you cut down on the waste you produce. Including this in your waste management practices has a two-fold effect. For one, environmentally friendly options tend to reduce the amount of waste you generate from the get-go. For another, any waste they produce is biodegradable. This means they can safely disintegrate without causing a negative impact.

    Fortunately, some companies have taken to creating eco-friendly alternatives, making them easier to purchase. Manufacturers, then, might be kind enough to follow suit as part of a more thoughtful push towards waste management in dentistry.

  3. If you can’t help it, dispose of your tools the right way

    Unfortunately, with the way manufacturing is done nowadays, we might still be seeing heavy metals and plastics in dental products in the future. But while they’re unavoidable, the next best thing is to know how to dispose of them.

    Use your leak-proof amalgam separators when throwing out broken fillings. And make sure you segregate your plastic toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes properly. These management practices will mitigate any chances of them hurting your underwater buddies or a pedestrian on the street.