Should You Let Patients Take Extracted Teeth Home?
No patient enjoys the feeling of having a tooth removed at the dentist, but some quite like taking it back home with them.
Though some dentists will happily part with the goods should a patient request this, others are more cautious.
Whether it’s wise or not to return extracted teeth continues to split opinion. Here’s what’s important to know.
How to proceed with extracted teeth
Once a tooth has been removed from a patient’s mouth, where it goes next can be one of four places:
- If free of amalgam, they can be disposed of in the sharps bin for future incineration
- If amalgam is present, they can go to amalgam waste for future metal recovery
- Kept for dental students
- Given back to the patient
Should a tooth be kept for educational purposes, it should be cleaned and heat-sterilized to allow for safe handling and placed in container to prevent leaking during transport or storage.
Extracted teeth containing amalgam are not recommended for heat-sterilization due to the possible dangers of mercury exposure.
What are Government guidelines on teeth extractions?
According to HTM 07-01: Safe management of healthcare waste, it is safe to give patients back their old tooth on the condition that it’s been cleaned/disinfected.
On the subject, HTM 07-01 includes the following note:
“Removed items, such as teeth, are waste produced by the healthcare organisation. Where the patient has asked to retain the item, it is not considered waste, since it has not been discarded.
As responsible organisations, there is a general duty of care to ensure that items being returned to patients are clean/disinfected; to provide the patient with advice should they wish to discard it later; and, if appropriate, that they have some packaging/instructions to return it to the practice later if they change their mind. This might, for example, prevent certain items subsequently being discarded in the domestic refuse.”
Why are some dentists still cautious?
Despite the guidelines outlined in HTM 07-01, some dentists are still hesitant about giving an extracted tooth back to its owner.
This is primarily due to apprehension around potential future complaints should the tooth come into contact with an individual and somehow transfer a disease.
This comes from the uncertainty that a decayed tooth can ever be completely sterilized of all bacteria.
For this reason, some dentists prefer to take a cautious approach by considering extracted teeth as infectious clinical waste and disposing of them as such.
According to HTM 07-01 guidelines, dentists are fully within their rights to give patients the option of taking an extract tooth home.
However, this remains guidance only and there is currently no law in place that forces a dentist to give an extracted tooth back to a patient should they ask for it.
The final decision is at the discretion of the clinician in accordance with any practice policy related to extractions.
To assist you with patient care and compliance following a tooth extraction, After Extraction cards and leaflets are available from Kent Express.