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Amalgam waste regulation: What dentists need to know

July 23, 2018
Dental practices have three more years to comply with the EPA Amalgam Regulation. Here's why it's a good idea to consider purchasing your practice's new amalgam separator now.

This article originally appeared in the Principles of Practice Management e-newsletter. Subscribe to this informative twice monthly practice management ENL here.

It’s been more than a year since the Environmental Protection Agency passed the regulation on the handling and disposal of amalgam waste in the dental practice. If you have not purchased your amalgam separator yet, you may have questions about amalgam separators and how to ensure your dental practice is in compliance.

According to the EPA Amalgam Regulation passed nationwide in July 2017, dental practices are now being held responsible for the proper disposal of wet and dry amalgam waste. The regulation requires that all dental practices in the US install a certified ISO 11143 amalgam separator before July 14, 2020. Therefore, dentists have three years to install an amalgam separator, as well as start a program to dispose or and recycle their dry amalgam waste properly.

Some common questions regarding the EPA Amalgam Regulation

Q: To which practices does the EPA rule apply?

A: The rule applies to all dental offices, schools, and clinics that discharge water into publicly owned treatment works (POTW). This applies to all dental practices in the US that place or dispose of amalgam in their practice. However, there are exceptions. These are oral pathology, oral and maxillofacial radiology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, periodontics, and prosthodontics.

Q: How long do I have to install an amalgam separator?

A: New practices have 90 days to get into compliance by installing a certified ISO 11143 amalgam separator. An existing practice without a separator has until July 14, 2020.

Q: Why should I purchase now when I have until July 2020 to install an amalgam separator?

A: While it’s true dentists have three years to install an amalgam separator and begin a documented program to dispose of and recycle their dry amalgam waste properly, it is wise for them to purchase now while product costs are still low and in stock and supply levels are still high. Moreover, installers are still available and installation costs are still affordable. Prior to the nationwide regulation, 11 states were already regulated, and installation costs soared up to 15 times the average cost of a typical one-hour installation. It may not pay to wait.

Q: I no longer place amalgam. Why do I need an amalgam separator?

A: While you may no longer place amalgam, you are most likely still removing amalgam fillings. The amalgam separator will capture the amalgam material before it enters the wastewater and POTW. Plus, as a bonus, the amalgam separator could increase the life of your vacuum by more than five years by collecting solids before they reach your vacuum pump.

Q: What is the requirement on dry amalgam waste?

A: Although the primary focus of the regulation is on the implementation of an amalgam separator for the capturing of wet amalgam waste, the rule also requires dental practices to properly dispose of their dry amalgam waste as well. Items such as chairside traps, teeth with amalgam, spent amalgam capsules, contact and non-contact amalgam, and vacuum filters should be disposed of and recycled in a properly labeled amalgam bucket for recycling.

For more information on the EPA Dental Amalgam Regulation or the NXT Hg5 Amalgam Separator, visit For more information on ADA best management practices for amalgam waste, visit

Complying with the new EPA rule on amalgam and amalgam waste

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