An eco-conscious mindset should not be limited to only certain areas of our lives, but it should penetrate every aspect of the modern world. Considering that healthcare inevitably produces a lot of waste every day, thinking about more sustainable approaches is becoming more and more urgent. Like other branches of healthcare, dentistry is not innocent either. However, efforts at creating “green dentistry” can make notable changes. Here are a few ways in which the eco-footprint of dentistry can be reduced.
Using less plastic
Single-use plastic is a major concern in today’s world. With 160,000 plastic bags used every second, statistics about the amount of plastic that continues to make its way into our oceans are concerning. You probably already know that dentistry uses a lot of single-use plastic as well. From disposable drinking cups to plastic packaging, a considerable amount of plastic is thrown away by each office. Reducing the use of these items and swapping them for reusable and recyclable ones is a step towards green dentistry. Say no to disposable instruments that are meant to boost convenience. Go for biodegradable cups instead of plastic ones that will lie in landfills for hundreds of years. Offer bamboo toothbrushes instead of the traditional plastic ones and introduce biodegradable floss to customers looking to shop.
Minimizing your carbon footprint
Every business has a carbon footprint and the same is true for a dentist’s office. However, what can you do to minimize yours as much as possible? There are many strategies that can help. First of all, switch to a more eco-friendly travel option if you are commuting to work. You can also encourage employees to do the same and carpool or cycle to your office instead of driving every day. When outsourcing work, be sure to go for local labs and communicate information electronically as much as possible. Even smarter appointment management can make a big difference. Work together with patients to reduce the number of appointments they have to separately attend and focus on longer appointments that allow for several treatments to be executed in one go.
Another environmental concern that dentists are trying to amend concerns amalgam fillings. Amalgam is widely used in dentistry, but the fact of the matter is that it contains dangerous materials that pose a threat to the environment when not disposed of correctly. Therefore, each dental clinic needs to carefully consider how they’ll ensure the mercury from old fillings does not get into wastewater systems, and consequently, into our soil, groundwater, air, and generally, natural environment. It will be necessary to install special separators that keep these harmful materials out of the wastewater system when fillings are being removed. Some practices also find it useful to use dental dams for this purpose. In addition to dealing with amalgam in old fillings, thinking about the future is also paramount. Some practices decide to cut out the use of amalgam altogether and implement other, more eco-friendly materials that work just as well.
Reducing our consumption—be it energy or water—is key to any effort to improve the sustainability of our practices. A dental clinic should also mind these aspects, considering just how much water is used in such an establishment on a daily basis. For instance, implementing a dry vacuum system instead of a traditional dental vacuum system can reduce the amount of wastewater a clinic produces. However, our habits also play an important role here, so be mindful that you don’t let the tap run unnecessarily. Energy consumption reduction is also quite straightforward. Switching lights to LEDs wherever possible and using motion sensor lights so spaces aren’t illuminated when they are not being used are all useful pieces of advice. For those who want to go the extra mile, the implementation of green energy is an amazing long-term solution to reduce their eco-footprint.
We already mentioned that reducing amalgam fillings and the number of appointments altogether are all good for the environment. What can certainly help with both of these goals is encouraging a preventive approach in your patients. A good dental clinic considers this matter especially important and focuses on thorough initial consultations, so patients are better informed about how their lifestyle affects their teeth and how they could boost their oral hygiene. Offering fluoride treatments and other preventive interventions is a win-win for both parties involved.
Digital is the future
Finally, another easy way to boost the greenness of your practice is by taking advantage of all the digital solutions the 21st century allows us. Almost any business can now go paperless and not only save money in the process but by reducing their paper and ink use, minimize their environmental impact. In fact, this doesn’t only apply to paper per se, but this approach can be implemented in your x-ray processes as well. There is no need to use heaps of plastic sheets when all the information can be clearly seen on a screen, too.
Today, people are making conscious changes to their health routines in order to make them greener. Do your contribution by greening up your dental clinic. Even when a fully green option is not achievable, a greener one is always at hand, and that already means a lot.