M.A.R.S Answers the Question “What is an Amalgam Separator?” – Part 3

M.A.R.S Answers the Question “What is an Amalgam Separator?” – Part 3

The National deadline for Dental Professionals to install an amalgam separator in their Dental Practice is drawing nearer. M.A.R.S is constantly releasing new information, to make the compliance period a less stressful and as economical as possible for Dentists.

The M.A.R.S Answers the Question “What is an Amalgam Separator?” Blog Series is providing Dental Professionals, a new insight into amalgam separation. We are shining a light on the big questions on the function of amalgam separators, how they work, how they are tested, why they fail, and why do we need them. So far in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series we have offered;

– a simple definition of what is an amalgam separator – an explanation on what fills amalgam separators – a short description on why they fail

Today, we will be explaining how amalgam separators work.

How do Amalgam Separators Work?

Currently, in Dental Practices without amalgam separators, the material from their operatories flow through the evacuation lines, through the suction pump, then enter the City’s sewer waste water. Chairside traps capture the larger particulates of the amalgam, but most of the finer material ends up in the wastewater stream. The video below gives an illustrated explanation on how amalgam separators work.



An amalgam separator is designed to be installed in line with the vacuum pump, either next to every operatory, or more commonly in a mechanical room. Regardless of the location within the practice, most of these systems function similarly.

Chair to Mechanical Room


Most amalgam separators, especially central systems, are divided into chambers.

Upper Chamber

The first chamber is where all the air, water, prophy paste, amalgam and any other material suctioned through the HVE or saliva ejector enters the amalgam separator. It is the first chamber, or air/water separator, where the heavy material separates from the air being pulled from the vacuum pump; this process slows the speed of the material that entered the amalgam separator. Generally speaking, all upper chambers function similarly, where some stand out over others is the reduction of restrictions of flow throughout the system.

Many filter based amalgam separators have small ½” to ¾” ports that connect the upper chamber to the settling portion of the system. The restriction of flow is why the filter based amalgam separators often clog and require weekly inspection and constant maintenance.

The M.A.R.S LibertyBOSS does not restrict flow through the amalgam separator below 1 ½”, making the system virtually impossible to clog, removing the need for any inspections. The image below will provide a comparison of the settle portion of a filter based amalgam separator vs. the LibertyBOSS.

Inlet Comparison

Sedimentation Containers

Once the material in the upper chamber has been slowed down, it will enter the sedimentation container portion of the system. Here is where any material heavier than water will be captured by the amalgam separator. For maintenance type systems, this will be the exchangeable filter on the amalgam separator, also known as the most expensive part of these types of systems.

Depending on which amalgam separator you have in your practice, the capacity and service life of these systems vary. Most filter based amalgam separators are in the 700ml – 950 ml range with the average lifespan of 6 months. A system like the LibertyBOSS has a 4,000ml capacity with the average service life of 36 months.

“Our filter isn’t full; we don’t have to change it yet.”

Filter based amalgam separators have an upper chamber (the air-water separator), and the filter (the lower chamber where sediment is captured). Filter based amalgam separators all require WEEKLY inspections, as the small inlet to their sedimentation containers often experience clogging. Catching the clog in time can result in a quick and inexpensive fix, leave the clog for too long, and it can you’re your office hundreds of dollars.

Are all ISO Tested Amalgam Separators Compliant?

For those of you who may already have an amalgam separator, or are weighing your options which system to install, our next blog will catch your interest.

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