You hear about eco-friendly cars and new recycling programmes all the time but have you even considered whether your dentist is doing his or her bit to save the environment? In recent years, a growing number of dental practices have adopted a greener approach and more and more dentists are getting on board in the quest to go green. But what can your local dentist do to be more eco friendly?
There are many things dentists can do to ‘go green’. One of the most influential changes dentists can make is to reduce the amount of energy they use. Many dental practices have reduced the amount of electricity and energy they use and started using instruments and technology that save water. Dentists use water all the time, when cleaning patients’ teeth and rinsing instruments, and making a conscious effort to turn the taps off between patients, although it seems a very small gesture, can actually make a huge difference.
Amalgam fillings have caused a great stir in the eco-world and many people fear that they are detrimental to the environment, as they increase the amount of mercury found naturally on the planet. Mercury waste is released by dentists when fillings are disposed of. Many dentists are now using only composite fillings, which tend to be more popular with patients because they are more aesthetically pleasing than metal fillings.
Cosmetic dentists generate a lot of waste; paper or plastic cups, aprons, gloves, papers and magazines. All these things need to be disposed of, but many of them can be recycled. Recycling helps to cut waste and also cuts costs in the long-run.
Some dentists are also encouraging their patients to help out with the green effort; for example, when they dispose of their toothbrushes. Every year millions of tonnes of plastic is dumped in the form of old toothbrushes, but they can be recycled and many dentists are offering swap schemes to exchange old brushes for new brushes. Environmentally friendly products, such as bamboo toothbrushes, are also a step in the right direction.
Modern dental technology is designed with the environmental impact in mind and dental equipment is much more efficient and environmentally-friendly. Digital X-rays are becoming increasingly popular. They do not require X-ray film and the doses of radiation are much lower than traditional X-rays. Digital X-rays are also beneficial because they produce more detailed images that can be accessed and stored easily. This is particularly beneficial for patients who are having treatments such as dental implants and braces.
Sterilisation equipment has also become more sophisticated and more and more dental practices are using steam sterilisation units, which do not require any toxic chemicals.
There are plenty of things you can do at home to go green with dental care: turn the taps off when you brush your teeth, use organic oral hygiene products and a toothbrush made from sustainable materials and help your local dental practice out with their green initiatives. You can also recycle old toothbrushes and spread the message to all your friends and family members.