The protection of the environment prevents not only natural disasters, but also fosters invention and research, creates jobs, and stimulates the economy. It does not stop at borders, no matter if national borders or borders between industries and professions, environmental protection means taking responsibility for one’s own actions, and it is now easier than ever to be environmentally conscious as a dental team. Each practice can minimise the environmental impact of its equipment and supplies by looking for sustainable ways to use and purchase them.
How do you do this?
In a dental practice, a large amount of plastic waste is produced. Dental practices can limit the purchase of plastic and plastic-packaged items for many areas, encourage recycling of plastics, and other packaging material such as glass or paper, and can liaise with manufacturers about their use of plastic to reduce the “burden” of plastic in dental practices.
You should also ensure that you have systems in place to control waste products such as batteries, dental radiography fixer, processing chemicals and clinical waste, and regular stock audits to identify items close to expiry, reduce over-ordering and the need to dispose of out-of-date chemicals, and products to landfill. A well audited stock system will help to reduce the frequency of ordering, especially when stock requirements are more accurately predicted.
To reduce the amount of paper purchased, practices can – depending on the topics – begin using digital media such as email or text messages to communicate with their patients and team members. Reducing paper used when needed in practices can also be achieved by using double-sided printing and photocopying.
An important asset to reduce the use of paper is also the introduction of a practice management software. From convenient and simple online appointment booking to digital anamnesis and automatic invoicing to a complete documentation of cleaning, sterilisation and disinfection processes, modern health care software systems fulfil many important organisational requirements in the daily practice routine, help to increase efficiency, and at the same time save paper for documentation and communication purposes.
For dental treatment procedures, many chemicals are used and needed. These include amalgam, cleaning, and disinfectant products, radiography equipment, and possibly Nitrous Oxide, used for sedation. Practices should ensure that they have systems in place to control and dispose according to regulations when it comes to the use of hazardous substances such as mercury amalgam and cleaning chemicals.
Dental teams can reduce their environmental impact by reviewing routine procedures and checking alternatives, such as using environmentally safer products when possible.
When it comes to practicing eco-friendly dentistry, there are many ways to ensure practices are going green. As single-use products are used more often than ever before, alternative products that are environmentally friendly can be considered to achieve eco-friendly dentistry. It is all depending on how products are packaged, used, or reused – e.g., do they need disinfection and what kind of disinfectant are used in the practice – and a practice analysis can be an important eye-opener to realise what might be the next step to a greener practice.