Six elements to consider when installing amalgam separators

Six elements to consider when installing amalgam separators



1.  Current building configuration and office space

  • Number of dental chairs
  • Are there multiple dental offices in the same building?
  • Lease agreement terms
  • Office space constraints (affects size selection of separator)
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Septic system offices require additional considerations for disposal of wastewater


2.  Vacuum system

  • Dry or wet vacuum system (wet systems require different plumbing and/or greater storage capacity)
  • Effect on other equipment
  • Warranties on current vacuum system, if modified by third parties
  • Group practices and buildings with multiple dental offices may consider sharing costs for installation and/or purchase


3.  Size, maintenance and cost of separators

Office space and current vacuum system specifics are key factors in the selection process.  Separators range in cost from $350 to $6,000.  Price is not necessarily a key factor when evaluating efficiency and meeting International Organization for Standardization (ISO) requirements for 95% amalgam removal efficiency.  (See ADA’s evaluation.)


4.  Installation requirements

A licensed plumber and electrician are recommended.  Separator dealers can review those details and facilitate appropriate installation.


5.  Timeline for required installation

  • Dentists following Best Management Practices required by state law and certified by a local wastewater treatment agency by September 1, 2008 must install separators by Jan. 1, 2010.
  • All new dental offices constructed on or after Jan. 1, 2008.
  • All dentists not certified by a local wastewater treatment agency as following Best Management Practices must have installed separators by Jan. 1, 2008.


6.  What the new state law (SB 704) requires of dentists

  • Implement ODA Best Management Practices for dental waste.
  • Amalgam separators must be verified to remove at least 95% of amalgam passing through the drain it’s installed to.
  • Separator maintenance is required according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Proof of installation and maintenance log records must be retained for at least three years.
  • Dental wastes containing mercury (including traps and filters containing mercury particles) may not be disposed of by incineration.  (No redbag/infectious waste disposal)


The American Dental Association has resources to assist dental offices preparing for installation of an amalgam separator.  Three ADA resources are available online: