Proper Dental Amalgam Waste Management: Preventing Mercury Pollution

Dental amalgam, commonly known as silver teeth fillings, is a silver material utilized for restoring or filling cavities in teeth. It is composed of almost equal parts of mercury and a powder with silver, zinc, copper, and tin, along with other metals. It is considered safe and effective for treating decaying teeth.

amalgam curveWhat is Dental Amalgam Waste?

Dental amalgam waste is leftover amalgam found in dentists’ offices. Typically found in chair side traps, extracted teeth with fillings, trap containers in vacuums, and used up amalgam capsules. Because dental amalgam is made up of almost 50% mercury, amalgam waste can pose health risks when people come in contact with it. Therefore, because of its hazardous nature, proper disposal techniques should always be performed, meaning that you can’t simply put it in the drain or throw it in with the other office trash.

Protecting Against Dental Amalgam Contamination

Studies conducted by the EPA or Environmental Protection Agency state that almost 50% of mercury found in public systems for wastewater treatment originated from dentists’ offices. If you use dental amalgam in your practice, your office provides dental amalgam waste that can contribute to mercury pollution and it is your responsibility to ensure its safe disposal.

Although amalgam waste is considered to be “Universal Waste”, which, according to, means dental amalgam recycling may be carried out without requiring permits, the EPA highly encourages all dentists as well as students of dental studies to implement the G.R.I.T. actions for proper amalgam waste disposal:

G for Gray Bag It: Place amalgam waste in gray bags.

R for Recycle It: Choose a reputable recycler capable of managing our dental amalgam waste effectively.

I for Install It: This is the most vital step, according to the EPA. Install an amalgam separator used for capturing around 95% of waste in the drain.

T for Teach It: Teach and always remind your office staff regarding proper handling and disposal of amalgam waste.

By following the G.R.I.T. practice, you won’t be contributing to mercury pollution and avoid the nuisance and costs of obtaining waste removal services.