The concept of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” can be employed in dental practices as a way of boosting sustainability. Step one is about decreasing the amount of waste that is generated in the first place. This might involve replacing single-use items with options that can be sterilised and reused. The following two stages highlight the importance of using recyclable materials and repurposing products wherever it is safe to do so. When it comes to reusing and recycling specialised equipment like amalgam separators, this can be more challenging. However, it is possible.
The unique amalgam challenge
A unique challenge in dentistry is the management of waste amalgam.
Concerns about the material are centred around the risk of it releasing mercury vapour – a potent cell toxin – which has been linked to an array of potential health conditions in humans. 1 This also poses a threat to the natural world, as exposure to this mercury vapour may have similarly adverse effects on animals. 2
For these reasons, dental practices are required to install amalgam separators to prevent any waste amalgam from entering waterways. These technologies must retain a minimum of 95% of amalgam particles to ensure their effectiveness. 3 Did you know that it is possible to treat and reuse them?
Specialist treatment services
Cutting-edge facilities have developed processes that today enable the safe and effective cleaning of amalgam separators, which render the equipment reusable. This is achieved by emptying the slush contents and then, using dry heat, raising the temperature to the point where the mercury is vapourised (approximately 356ºC) so that this can be separated from the rest of the contents. The vapour is combined with sulphur to make it less hazardous for disposal, and the amalgam separator is then cleaned as normal and returned to the practice.
The same facilities also have the ability to recycle old amalgam separators by following a similar decontamination process. The equipment is completely disassembled and each part is treated to remove potential mercury traces. The separator is then quality checked and repairs made where necessary to restore it to 100% functionality.
Reuse and recycle more with Initial Medical
To optimise your processes, Initial Medical also works with our sister company, Medentex – a specialist dental recycling centre. This means that by working with us, you gain access to the environmental advantages of safely reusing and/or recycling your amalgam separators when the time comes. It is just one aspect of our commitment to increasing sustainability and helping you to enhance your own green credentials.
Improving business sustainability is an important part of modern dentistry. There are many different ways in which you can achieve this, and it’s important to consider small everyday changes, as well as how you manage larger pieces of equipment such as your amalgam separator.
1 Nylander M, Friberg L, Lind B. Mercury concentrations in the human brain and kidneys in relation to exposure from dental amalgam fillings. Swed Dent J. 1987;11(5):179-87.
2 Berlin M. Mercury in dental amalgam: a risk analysis. NeuroToxicology. 2020; 81 Pages 382-386, ISSN 0161-813X https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuro.2020.09.034.
3 Care Quality Commission (CQC). Dental mythbuster 1: Use and disposal of dental amalgam. June 2023. https://www.cqc.org.uk/guidance-providers/dentists/dental-mythbuster-1-use-disposal-dental-amalgam [Accessed June 2023]