The movement to minimize negative impact on the environment is a hot topic in dentistry. As this is one field that usually produces high levels of material waste— both toxic and nontoxic— and energy consumption, many dental facilities across the country are switching to greener practices. If you are investigating ways to make your own office more eco-friendly, the suggestions below can get you started.
- Paper: While it is reasonable to keep some paper records in case of unforeseen computer trouble, limiting the number of such files can greatly decrease office waste. Bills, patient charts, and X-rays can all be completed and assessed electronically. Here are some other ideas for eco-friendly paper usage:
- Use recycled paper
- Set the office printers to print double-sided automatically
- Place several recycling bins around the office— especially by printers and desks
- Water: One of the most used resources in a dental office is water. Implementing a waterless vacuum system can save between 350— 500 gallons per day.
- Tooth-colored adhesive: Using tooth-colored adhesive for restorations in place of metals reduces heavy metal waste, which may ultimately contaminate waterways and soil fertilizers. Converting to these materials is particularly easy because patients tend to prefer discreet adhesive over traditional metal crowns.
- Reusable materials: While not everything in a dental office can be reused, there are many items that do not need to be disposed of after every use. Here are some examples:
- Cloth lab coats
- Rechargeable batteries
Especially in medical fields, occasional waste is unavoidable due to potential health risks. In such cases, dental offices may want to consider the following options:
- Biodegradable Disposables: Many of the items that must be disposed of after a single use are available for purchase in biodegradable forms. Examples include examination gloves, tongue depressors, and cotton swabs.
- Ecofriendly disinfectants: Ecofriendly disinfectants contain fewer toxic chemicals and more natural agents.
Reduce Electricity Use
- Assign someone to switch all the lights off at closing time
- Install motion sensors
- Use LED operatory lights (70% more energy efficient than halogen, and less costly)
- Research energy efficient options before making any purchases
- Unplug when not in use— electronics/appliances consume energy when plugged in, even when turned off.
Lastly, using a wellness model for managing treatment helps to mediate long-term resource waste. Dentistry practices that follow a wellness model focus on prevention and maintaining good health, rather than just treating health problems as they arise.
For more suggestions, see the Eco-dentistry Association Website. They have more information regarding environmentally friendly dentistry practices and a product guide for finding green supplies.