Sonal Bhoot explains some of the ways we can make our dental practices more eco-friendly.

Considering the fact that nearly every field has made headway in the environment-friendly sector, it is hardly surprising that dentistry has done so too.

Green dentistry implies the use of eco-friendly techniques and materials in daily practice. A way to meld environmentally sound ideals with effective treatment to give patients the optimal result.

To understand the entirety of the picture it is necessary to begin with the basics.

Keys to green dentistry

The model that serves as the foundation stone of eco-friendly dentistry is the four Rs cycle. This model encompasses four key principles:

  • Rethink
  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Recycle.

At the core of every green practice lies this traditional four R cycle, no matter what the field. Dentistry can easily incorporate the Rs to achieve sustainability.

Dilemmas and remedies

Having to find solutions that incorporate green choices implies the existence of a previous problem. These problems are usually consolidated and confined to a few frequent repetitive areas. They include:

  1. Energy
  2. Water
  3. Money
  4. Waste and pollution
  5. Radiation
  6. Inaccuracy.

Energy and water consumption are two understandably common complaints.

Dentistry that heavily relies on the use of rotary tools, water sprays, lights, and the usual healthcare demands on energy and water is arguably a major contributor to these issues. Not to mention the blood, saliva, amalgam waste, other dental material waste, discarded personal protection items, and countless other reasons for pollution and waste disposal problems. Traditional X-ray films with their constituent silver and lead and the resulting problems have only given more cause for concern.

These are interchangeable issues, sometimes easily settled by a single ecologically smart solution.

The remedies

  1. Energy and water consumption: the new-fangled energy-saving CFLs and motion sensors reducing energy consumption can also be achieved by the simple expedient of remembering to turn off lights and fans, cutting down on water wastage, and resourceful ideas
  2. Waste: potently neurotoxic mercury-containing dental materials, saliva ejector systems, disposable barriers, toxic disinfectants, conventional X-rays with their silver and lead content, sharps, and blood-soaked gauzes are just a few components of waste accumulated from a dental practice
  3. Using mercury containers for scrap amalgam,  disposable suction traps, mixing X-ray fixers with developers and disposing of them through sewers, and sending lead-based solutions to the CWC for disposal are good starting points
  4. Blood contaminated gauzes are to be enclosed in yellow biomedical waste bags, covered with a double bag, and labelled with the biohazard symbol
  5. Sharps may be collected in red/yellow puncture-resistant containers, and non-removable lids then sent to a CWC (certified biomedical waste carrier) for disposal
  6. Radiation control: embracing newer technology is a popular solution to a majority of problems, and digital X rays are the answer to the radiation hazard issue. Digital X-rays eliminate the risk of radiation and eliminate pollution, waste, and toxicity. An added advantage is better clarity of digital images
  7. Non-hazardous waste such as paper can be entirely replaced again by accepting the worth of technology and using computers.

How to build an eco-friendly dental office

The easiest way is to hire a green architect. Floor plans, lights, airy rooms – you can get them all.

But if you’re looking to implement a few changes that don’t need an architect, you could go over the guidelines to a green practice listed by the American Dental Association or the Eco Dentistry Association.

Here’s a list of some absolute essentials to factor in when building a green dental office:

  1. Good ventilation, light, airy atmosphere
  2. Linoleum flooring
  3. Green plants in the office
  4. Organic or eco-friendly scrubs
  5. Natural oral care products such as toothpastes and mouthwashes
  6. Environmentally-friendly sterilisation program
  7. No aerosol products
  8. Solar electric panels and water heaters
  9. Motion detectors and timers for lights to cut wastage of electricity
  10. Paint free from volatile organic compounds
  11. Reusable glass irrigation syringes instead of plastic
  12. Biodegradable disposable paper cups
  13. Recycling aluminium, glass, plastic, paper, and steel whenever possible
  14. Recycling or refilling toner cartridges
  15. LCD computer screens
  16. Energy-efficient fluorescent lighting
  17. Keeping the entire office system virtual rather than using excessive amounts of paper
  18. Less harmful disinfectants and surface cleaners
  19. Biodegradable ceiling and wall panels
  20. Spreading the word: encourage your staff and patients to follow your lead by placing clearly labelled recycling containers in accessible locations.

There is a lot more to building a fully functional green dental office, but these tips are a good start. Consult a green architect for help and great ideas on your eco-friendly practice.

Conclusion

With all the focus on sustainable practices, it’s time to say goodbye to the old energy-consuming ways. Green practices will ultimately elevate our practices from ordinary to extraordinary and give us and all our patients whether on their regular or bi-annual dental visits, a better future on this planet.