The Green Side of Dentistry
Mentioning the words “green” and “dentistry” in the same sentence just might cause you to recall childhood memories of classmates who didn’t brush their teeth often enough. However, today these words herald a new era of eco-friendly dentistry in which greater attention is paid to limiting waste and promoting practices that don’t harm the environment.
All industries contribute to climate change and pollution. Medical and dental industry waste from infectious or hazardous materials fills landfills or is consumed by incinerators, thereby producing various greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and ash, all of which may contaminate land, air and water. The concept of “green dentistry” can be traced back to over 10 years ago when innovators in the dental industry proposed a greater reduction of consumption and waste.
- Reduce electrical power with dimmer switches and after-hour settings, improved thermostat regulation for heating and air-conditioning, and fluorescent lighting.
- Decrease water use with the introduction of dry dental vacuum pumps instead of traditional wet devices. This change alone can save more than 40 gallons of water annually, saving money while saving the environment. Low-flow faucets and toilets also make a big difference.
- Choose sterilization over disposal. Sterilizing syringes over and over significantly reduces the waste from single-use plastic syringes. New steam sterilization methods don’t require chemical vapors to be ventilated, and no hazardous waste permits are necessary, saving time, money and hassle. Reusing cotton towels and bibs and laundering them properly with energy-saving washers and dryers also prevents tons of their paper counterparts from ending up in landfills.
- Invest in and use digital imaging technology instead of film-based X-rays. Digital imaging exposes patients to 90 percent less radiation and greatly reduces the amount of harmful lead and silver released into the environment. Moreover, digital images are available right away without the developing chemicals and wait time, and they are usually of higher quality for greater diagnostic accuracy.
- Adopt the use of more eco-friendly products and, when possible, reduce the amount of chemical use. There are now a number of high-quality, biodegradable disinfectants and cleaners on the market. Less toxic paints can enhance the walls of any dental office needing a fresh look.
- Opt for the natural-looking dental restorations, including adhesive, metal-free restoratives such as porcelain veneers and crowns. The benefit: waste from silver amalgam fillings that could end up polluting the main water supply is negated.
In addition, eco-dentists may remind patients to consume less water when brushing teeth or while engaging in other hygiene activities. In eco-friendly dentistry, a new kind of dentist-patient relationship is being forged for the cause of conservation and health.
If you are interested in learning more about green dentistry, call Dr. Mark Sweeney, an Austin Texas dentist at (512) 452-9296.