OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.


November 24, 1993

The Honorable Bent Conrad
United States Senator
657 2nd Avenue North Room 306
Fargo, North Dakota 58102

Dear Senator Conrad:

This is in response to your letter of September 25, which you wrote on behalf of your constituent, Mr. Gordon Sorum. Mr. Sorum contacted you because his oral surgeon refused to return an extracted tooth to him and informed him that "OSHA prohibits him from returning teeth that have been extracted from patients." The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) appreciates the opportunity to clarify this matter.

Under the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030), OSHA considers extracted teeth to be potentially infectious material when they are being disposed of, used as diagnostic specimens, or sent to dental schools for student use. As such, they are to be handled in a particular manner in order to prevent occupational transmission of disease to employees who come into contact with them.

However, there is nothing in the standard which would prevent a dentist from giving patients their own extracted teeth when the patient desires them, since the intent of the standard is to prevent exposure of employees to the blood of other individuals, not to protect individuals from their own blood. At the same time, it would be unacceptable for a healthcare provider to require that a patient take all of the contaminated items generated during their care in order to circumvent the standard's regulated waste requirements.

We hope this information is responsive to your constituent's concerns, and thank you for your interest in worker safety and health.


Roger A. Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs

[Corrected January 22, 2008]