Amalgam, a compound typically used in dental fillings, is often made of a mix of silver, copper, tin, or mercury. Generally suitable for restoring teeth, it can be hazardous to the environment because incinerators in sewage plants can release materials that may build up in the groundwater and ocean. An amalgam separator usually enables dentists to remove these materials from wastewater before it is drained. Different types are available based on how they work. Centrifugal, sedimentation, and filter systems are common varieties, while others can also feature combined processing mechanisms.
Some systems use centrifugal force, or a spinning motion to get amalgam particles to separate from the water. The waste particles can then be thrown away separately, and the water drained into the sewage system with little risk of contamination. A sedimentation amalgam separator typically operates by slowing down wastewater. The suspended particles can settle to the bottom when the flow of water does not continue to push them through the solution.
An amalgam separator sometimes includes a filter to block flow of particulate matter. Course and fine particles are typically trapped by the filtration material, and the water that passes through is usually free of any kinds of potentially hazardous materials that can leak into the environment. To remove smaller particles as well as dissolved mercury, an amalgam separator can combine two different methods, or sometimes more, if necessary.
The cost and size of dental equipment is often a concern, because some offices have limited space. A small amalgam separator can fit in a tight space; some machines that are built this way mount to the floor or a wall. There is also a portable version that can be used in clinics or medical facilities that perform dental procedures occasionally. It can be put in storage when not needed, so that clinics that perform other work more regularly have the necessary space.
Depending on the type of amalgam separator, it can be connected to the piping of the vacuum system in the dental office. Systems with this configuration are often close to the dental chair, while amalgam separation can take place before the wastewater reaches the vacuum pump. Some machines are installed at the outlet of the air and water separator. The waste particles collected by the amalgam separator can be removed daily or once every several months, depending on the model and how much it is used by the dentist.