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How the Dental Industry Is Becoming More Eco-Friendly

Posted April 22, 2021

Adrian Johansen

Is your dental office green? What is your practice doing to reduce their carbon footprint and become eco-friendly?

Every year, we learn more and more about the threat of climate change, and over the last several years, many industries have been looking to make a difference. They understand that climate change can have adverse effects, and they want to do their part to make our planet a more hospitable place.

This includes the dental industry. It may be surprising to learn, but there are actually many ways that a change in dental equipment can make a big impact in becoming a green dental practice. Read on to learn a little more about these green solutions and how being eco-friendly is good for business.

A Changing World

The world needs to take climate change seriously along with the potential dangers to public health that it presents. Without working to resolve the issue, these dangers can include everything from extreme heat events, violent weather disasters, poorer air quality, and frightening insect-related diseases like the Zika virus. In addition to these threats, these changes also impact the individual, as higher temperatures can lead to dehydration or heat stroke, as well as an increase in allergies.

While the people of the world are looking for a change, many different industries and businesses are also jumping on the bandwagon. Over the years, many companies have worked to reduce their impact on the world. Back in 2005, Subaru stopped emissions for landfill waste and increased its reuse of plastic foam. Soon after, Honda decreased their landfill waste to next to nothing, and Marks and Spencer saved $227 million by cutting carbon emissions.

These positive results inspired entrepreneur Ina Pockrass to open the first green dental practice in America. Through her efforts, green dentistry inspired new practices to ditch some of the more wasteful dental procedures. She also helped to launch the Eco-Dentistry Association. They provide alternative tools and methods that will continue to help patients while benefiting the Earth at the same time. The organization is now 600 members strong.

Eco-Friendly Fixes for Common Dental Waste Issues

These new, sustainable, green dental practices are truly putting their ideas into action by updating some of the standard dental procedures of the old days with new eco-friendly alternatives. 

For example, infection control and sterilization processes used by dentists can be a significant source of pollution. The discarded products and chemicals include 680 million patient barriers and 1.7 billion sterilization pouches dumped every year. To stop this, eco-friendly dentists are using reusable cloth patient barriers, cloth lab coats, and steam sterilization instead of chemical cleaning.

At many standard dental practices, older x-ray machines produce lead foils and chemical fixers. Not only are they thrown out after use, but also contain chemicals such as boric anhydride and ammonium thiocyanate. These chemicals are hazardous to our eyes, skin, and respiratory systems. When these lead foils are dumped, they stay intact within the topsoil for up to 2,000 years. To eliminate much of this waste and become eco-friendly, new digital x-ray machines are being installed. They use digital imaging paired with LED lighting in the examination room.

The suction and dental vacuum systems that are used during most dental procedures are also making a change. Dentists may be comfortable using these devices; however, they waste close to 9 billion gallons of water each year in the United States alone. Water conservation can be achieved with a newer, high-tech, dry vacuum system that accomplishes the same procedures with zero waste.

These new tools are just the tip of the iceberg. There is a green solution for just about every device in the dental office.

Going Green Can Boost Business

Although eliminating waste and building a cleaner environment for future generations is reward enough, green dentistry could also help to increase your customer base. As more news spreads about climate change, customers are becoming continuously aware of the dangers. 

When customers learn that 2014 was the hottest year on record or that there has been an increase in adverse environmental disasters, they want to see a change. If a dental practice advertises how they’re trying to become eco-friendly, customers may choose to stay loyal rather than leave.

The industries are starting to learn that green customers are a whole different breed. They have an appreciation for transparency and honesty. They are tech-savvy, and they are often very present on social media. Social media users are usually very passionate, and when they like something, they take to their Facebook and Twitter. They discuss their experience and recommend the office to their friends. Even the novelty of being a new, environmentally friendly dentist could be enough to excite consumers.                     

Dental practices that are timid about going all-in with sustainable dentistry can start small. Using LED lighting, biodegradable ceiling panels, eliminating aerosol products, and recycling is a great way to start being eco-friendly. Understanding green dentistry is important for those looking into joining the dental profession. This technology is the future, and you want to be ahead of the curve. 

Although it will take time for all of these eco-friendly changes to fully transform the dental industry into green dentistry, small steps can do wonders to improve the Earth and your customer base.

Updated April 22, 2021
Originally published June 17th, 2019

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