Under universal/standard precautions, OSHA deems that all teeth must be assumed to be potentially infectious. As such, they must be handled safely, to prevent the potential for occupational transmission of disease to employees who come into contact with them.
However, OSHA does not prohibit, nor does CDC recommend against, dentists giving teeth back to patients, so long as it is done in a safe manner with no employee exposure to blood or other potentially infectious material (OPIM). Keep in mind that the intent of OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard is to prevent employee exposure to patients’ blood, not to protect patients from their own blood. Extracted teeth to be given back to patients should be cleaned, wiped down with a disinfectant, and then rinsed with clean water.
If a tooth is not to be given back to the patient, then it must be disposed of as medical “red bag” waste. If the tooth contains amalgam, then it must be either recycled as contact amalgam (preferred) or disposed of as hazardous waste. Extracted teeth with amalgam should NEVER be autoclaved or incinerated as medical waste because the high temperatures of the autoclave/incinerator can cause the release of mercury vapor.
Since 1992, OSHA Review, Inc. has provided dental professionals with comprehensive programs to support regulatory compliance and infection control. We are a registered continuing education provider in the state of California, specializing in Dental Practice Act, infection control, and OSHA training.