In our world today, more people are trying to make a conscious effort to create a healthier environment for not only ourselves, but for the generations that come after us. Dental practices contribute a large amount of waste generated by various dental procedures, along with excessive use of water and electricity.
What is Green Dentistry?
Fortunately, associations like the Eco-Dentistry Association are developing comprehensive programs for dental offices that are designed to teach the dentist how to run their practice in a manner that better benefits the planet, the patients, and the environment as a whole.
Green dental professionals are coming together to help maintain a lifestyle of wellness. For patients, this means they can find a dental provider that shares their passion and concern for the planet. A green dentist works to prioritize four different areas within the dental practice:
1. Reducing waste and pollution
Waste management is one of the biggest ecological challenges our society faces. Dentists alone can contribute to significant environmental changes due to the amount of waste that leaves the practice, like toxic chemicals being sent down the drain that end up in the streams and landfills in our environment. A study published by the US National Library of Medicine states that the common waste produced by dentists include: dental amalgam (mercury), silver, lead, biomedical and general office waste. To help reduce the amount of waste that leaves the practice, green dentists focus on:
- Recycling parts of the original building if they choose to remodel. And, in the remodel process, choosing environmentally friendly paints and carpets.
- Creating sustainable infection-control practices like steam sterilization, not using tox sterilization methods, reusing patient bibs, and more while maintaining a hospital-grade environment in an eco-friendly way.
2. Saving water, energy, and money
Dentists can manage their practices in a way that saves water, energy, and money by incorporating things like:
- Conventional vacuum systems like a dry vac (which uses no water). A wet ring vacuum most dentists use can waste up to 360 gallons of water a day. It is estimated that the modern dentist office uses as much as 57,000 gallons of water per year. When you add that number up by every dentist practice in the US alone, that amounts to 9 billion gallons of water wasted by dentists.
- Compact fluorescent lights throughout the practice
- Energy Star Appliances and doing uniforms and laundry in house
- An in-office water distiller
3. Going high tech
One of the ways dentists can work to produce less general waste is by going high tech. This includes moving all patient records to being electronic, using digital X-rays, and LED lights in the operator that use 50% less energy than conventional operatory lights.
4. Supporting wellness lifestyles
The biggest facet of being an eco-friendly dentist is supporting wellness lifestyles that not only benefit the patient, but the environment too. Eco-friendly dentists can encourage all around wellness by encouraging patients to ride their bike to their appointments (and offering a discount if they do), and supporting other local businesses within walking distance from your practice. As a patient, you should value choosing a dentist that prioritizes your health but the health of the world you live in too. Make sure you are going to a dentist that consistently scrutinizes each area of their practice for ways they can make it more sustainable and eco-friendly.
Waste From Dentists
In addition to the water waste mentioned above, the Eco-Dentistry Association states that the average dental office uses 4.8 million lead foils and creates over 3.7 tons of mercury waste per year. This doesn’t include sterilization pouches, patient bibs, general paper waste, and other aspects of the dental practice. Mercury is a toxic chemical, and when it is released into our environment it can end up in our water, soil, and food. Additionally, lead waste can also find its way into our soil and foods when wasted. The worst part? Led can last for up to 2000 years. Green dentistry helps reduce this, which keeps your community safer.
Why Patients Should Care
Eco-friendly dentistry is a way that you as a patient can give back to your environment by just going to get your teeth cleaned. When you go to an eco-friendly dentist, you know that the dentist and their team are doing all they can to make the world a better place one patient at a time. You as one person are able to make a significant change. By opting to change small lifestyle habits, like the dentist you see, you too can work to make the environment a little better for those who come after you.
Dr. Ashley Niles
Dr. Niles is not only committed to bringing her patients the best and most advanced dentistry the profession has to offer, she is also equally committed to the environment as well as her patients’ health and overall wellness. She continues to keep her practice as eco-friendly as possible and has been certified by the Eco-Dentistry Association. Dr. Niles is passionate about overall wellness and strives to be an example of keeping your teeth and body healthy with a balanced diet, proper exercise, and sleep.