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Developing a Sharps Disposal Plan

Sharps disposal

Sharps management is an important component of a dental practice. A sharp is anything that can pierce skin, this includes, needles, scalpel blades, anesthetic carpules, orthodontic wires, etc. All practices using sharps are liable for their proper containment and ultimate disposal. A quality sharps program requires multiple considerations but can be readily established and maintained with proper preparation.

Protect Your Patients and Staff

The Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act of 2000 requires healthcare providers to develop exposure control plans to minimize the potential for needle sticks. The vast majority of sharps-related injuries in the dental setting area are the result of inadvertent sticks. The likelihood of these accidents can be reduced by following a few simple steps.

  • Approved containers should be used for the recovery of sharps, needles, and lancets.
  • Containers should be as close to the work area as possible to minimize handling.
  • Do not leave sharps unattended in the operatory or elsewhere. • Do not carry uncapped sharps through walkways used by patients.

Stay Compliant with Local Requirements

Certain states and counties have specific allowable storage times for sharps and non-sharps. Check with your local regulations to ensure compliance. Sharps containers come in various sizes. Use specific sharps container sizes that cater to your practice needs to maximize the use of your containers while maintaining compliance with regulations.

Sharps Compliance Guide

Sharps Storage State Regulations

Select the Appropriate Disposal Solution

A practice is legally responsible for their sharps waste disposal. There are two major ways to handle disposal. You can contract with a disposal contractor that schedules pickups or you can enroll in a mail-back program that includes return shipping when your containers are full.

Compare their services, options and requirements. Before you enter into a contract, find out how long the commitment you are making will last. Will the contract auto-renew or is there a defined termination or end date? Be sure you understand the steps that need to be taken to end the contract in case you later decide you want change vendors – what kind of notice is required and how far in advance must it be given? Ask about any maintenance and additional fees. There are pros and cons to either decision, you have to decide which option is best for you.

This information provided courtesy of HealthFirst, an endorsed company of ADA Business Enterprises, Inc. Learn more about HealthFirst at 800-331-9184 or visit

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this content are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the ADA. These materials are intended to provide helpful information to dentists and dental team members. They are in no way a substitute for actual professional advice based upon your unique facts and circumstances. This content is not intended or offered, nor should it be taken, as legal or other professional advice. You should always consult with your own professional advisors (e.g. attorney, accountant, insurance carrier). To the extent this content includes links to any third party web site(s), ADA intends no endorsement of their content and implies no affiliation with the organizations that provide their content. Further, ADA makes no representations or warranties about the information provided on those sites.