Dentistry Overview

Dental offices use and generate potentially hazardous substances, the most common of which are amalgam (silver) fillings that contain 40 to 50% mercury by weight. Other hazardous materials include the lead and silver in X-ray processing and the chemicals used to sterilize equipment.

SF Environment and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) in conjunction with the San Francisco Dental Society launched the Dental Mercury Reduction Program to regulate mercury pollution caused by dental practices and to provide information on safer alternatives to chemicals commonly used in dental offices. Under this program, dental offices are required to implement amalgam best management practices and to limit mercury discharges to the lowest practicable levels through installation of an amalgam separator -a device that removes mercury particles from the wastewater produced by a dental office. The City maintains a list of amalgam separators that are approved for use by San Francisco dentists.