Recycling Dental Amalgam

A tooth with a mercury amalgam filling.

Dental amalgam accounts for about 1% of all the mercury waste produced in the United States, a very small amount. Still, this means that nearly four tons of mercury goes to wastewater treatment plants from dental practices. Although dental amalgam is a safe, inert form of mercury, proper disposal is still necessary to prevent contamination from its long-term decomposition. Therefore, dental practices like the Marconi Dental Group are expected to recycle all dental amalgam.

What is an Amalgam Separator?

The Marconi Dental Group uses very little dental amalgam. We prefer other non-metallic forms of cavity restorations, as alternatives are safer to work with and better for the environment. Many patients have old amalgam fillings, however, and when these need to be removed due to their age or failure, the amalgam is now a waste product. Particles of amalgam may also go down the sink or into suction lines as we remove the filling. Making sure that none of this enters the wastewater system or environment requires an amalgam separator.

Amalgam separators are placed in line with the plumbing and suction system of a dental practice. They remove amalgam particles, even very fine ones, through a system of settlement filtration. Amalgam is caught it traps that are later sent to a recycler that separates the useful materials and ensures proper disposal. Such separators will be required in all dental offices starting in 2020.

Amalgam Solid Waste Disposal

Ordinary dental waste often goes in biological waste containers. That’s not the case with an extracted tooth that contains amalgam. These forms of biological waste are supposed to be recycled just like liquid amalgam waste. While solid amalgam can be collected without a separator and simply placed in a sealed container, it still goes to a recycler for proper disposal.

If you have questions about amalgam fillings, amalgam recycling practiced by the Marconi Dental Group, or would like to replace your mercury fillings, make an appointment or talk about it during your next visit to our Carmichael dental office.

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