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This is a query that we often hear from our clients. Most waste generated by dental offices falls into the category of minimally contaminated, general solid waste and thus may be discarded in the regular trash. Some examples include used disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) – medical gloves, surgical masks, and gowns – as well as lightly soiled gauze or cotton rolls and disposable plastic barriers or wrapping used to cover equipment during treatment.
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines regulated medical waste as “liquid or semi-liquid blood or other potentially infectious materials; contaminated items that would release blood or other potentially infectious materials in a liquid or semi-liquid state if compressed; items that are caked with dried blood or other potentially infectious materials and are capable of releasing these materials during handling; contaminated sharps; and pathological and microbiological wastes containing blood or other potentially infectious materials.”
Examples of regulated medical waste found in dental offices include:
- biohazardous waste items that are soaked or saturated with blood or saliva (i.e. gauze saturated with blood following oral surgery),
- extracted teeth without amalgam if not to be given back to the patient,
- surgically removed hard and soft tissues, and
- contaminated sharp items (i.e. needles, scalpel blades, orthodontic wires).
A stated above, used PPE in a dental office is not considered regulated medical waste, and may be discarded in the regular trash.