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How to Recycle Used Dental Equipment

Knowing how to dispose of your old dental equipment properly is a crucial aspect of dental practice management. Today, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about the disposal of old dental equipment. 

As a dental professional, one of your main priorities is the comfort of your patients. A large part of that is ensuring that the tools and equipment you use are up to date and in excellent condition. High-quality equipment is an excellent way to reassure your patients that their comfort and safety are always your top priority.


Dentistry is ever-evolving; as the industry advances, so does the equipment we use to provide our patients with the care they need. Properly recycling or disposing of your used equipment is a crucial part of the upgrade process.


Depending on the type of equipment that you wish to dispose of, there are rules and guidelines that must be taken into consideration and followed in order to ensure safe, responsible, and environmentally-friendly disposal.


What Happens to Used Dental Equipment? 

Dental tools and other equipment that is re-used daily must always be fully sanitized and sterilized between each use.


Proper dental tool sterilization is a multi-step process:

  • Instruments are cleaned of any visible debris. In most cases, this is achieved with manual scrubbing and soaking in an ultrasonic machine, which uses sound waves to shake debris loose.
  • The instruments and tools are then rinsed and placed inside sealed sterilization pouches.
  • The pouches are placed inside an autoclave. This machine uses pressurized steam to ensure complete sterilization, reaching an average temperature of 250-273 degrees Fahrenheit during an average cycle.

For equipment or instruments that can not be sterilized and reused – such as x-ray films and machines or old dental instruments that are ready to be retired – there are options for properly recycling them.


Recycling of X-ray Films & Machines

Digital x-rays are more efficient and safer for both the operator and the patient. As the industry shifts into the use of digital x-ray machines, there is an increased need for proper recycling techniques to dispose of traditional x-ray films and machines. Every day, more dentists are inquiring about how to dispose of dental x-ray products.

Traditional x-ray machines made prior to 1979 may contain lead, beryllium and PCB-contaminated oil; it is absolutely imperative that proper recycling guidelines are followed. 

Below are a few different popular options for recycling dental x-ray machines:

  • Sell the machine to a used dental equipment vendor (try doing a Google search for “who buys used dental equipment near me?”)
  • Donate the machine to a company that repurposes or recycles used machines (place a Google search for “x-ray machine recycling near me”)
  • Donate the machine to a reputable non-profit such as Partners in Health
  • Sell parts for scrap
  • Transfer ownership to another practice or licensed dental professional 

Traditional x-ray film contains silver emulsion, which is flammable and potentially dangerous to our environment. What’s more, is that they are considered to be private patient information, and therefore must be properly disposed of to abide by HIPAA regulations.

In order to properly dispose of x-ray films, it is best to use a HIPAA-compliant recycling company; most melt the film down to extract the silver and protect patient privacy.


Recycling of Old Dental Instruments

While most dental instruments are designed to be sterilized and reused, there comes a time when replacement is needed.

Are dental instruments recyclable?

Absolutely! Most modern dental instruments contain 400 series stainless steel, which is easily recyclable. Rather than tossing your old instruments in the trash, it’s best to take a more environmentally-friendly approach; donate the instruments to a program that recycles them.

There are multiple programs that work to recycle old dental instruments, such as:


Single-Use Alternatives & Greener Options for Dentists

As eco-consciousness becomes the new normal, “green” alternatives are gaining popularity in the dental industry. This new approach is known as green dentistry or eco-dentistry.

Below are some examples of single-use alternatives and generally greener dental products:

  • Laundered lab coats (rather than paper coats)
  • Biodegradable paper cups
  • Paper high-speed suction tips
  • Paper slow-speed suction tips
  • Biodegradable autoclave pouches
  • Reusable autoclave pouches
  • Biodegradable nitrile gloves
  • Cloth cassette wraps 
  • Non-toxic disinfectant
  • Stainless steel impression trays
  • Stainless steel slow-speed suction tips
  • Stainless steel air/water tips

Looking for some assistance in choosing eco-friendly dental products that will work best for you and your patients? Here at Safco Dental, we are dedicated to providing the equipment and supplies you need to provide your patients with the top-tier care that they deserve. 

Contact us anytime; our team of dental supply experts is here to answer your questions and help you find what you need. 

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