What is Green Dentistry?
Yes, your Houston dentist does do his part to be environmentally friendly. What a green dental office does is first conserve natural resources and convert into a more carbon-neutral environment. MidtownDentistry is proud to be one of the leaders in green dentistry. While the road to pure “green” is still being paved, Dr. Penchas wants his patients to be part of the journey.
In the past, dental offices were built for lower cost and higher output – not conservation. Our materials and instruments are still lagging. Water-saving is the first. Reduction in energy consumption is a second area. Using alternative energy and offsetting carbon emission is also helpful.
The most significant loss of water in most dental offices in the central evacuation system – i.e., “the suction.” Most dentists use a system that uses water to produce the vacuum. This can use several HUNDRED gallons per day. A water recycling device can reduce this amount to several dozen gallons. Newer vacuum systems are called dry vacuum systems. These systems do not use any water at all. They are more expensive and larger but save on water.
The second water waste is the rinsing and washing of instruments before sterilization. Research now shows that washing dishes with a dishwasher saves large amounts of water compared to handwashing them – and this is true in a dental office. Using an instrument disinfector – a professional dishwasher, will reduce the amount of water used, but increase the power used.
Washing hands is a repetitive and essential part of infection control in a dental office. With dozens of hands being cleaned all day – the amount of water used can be reduced with minimum care. Using automatic faucets that control the time and amount of flow helps with water savings.
Dental offices can reduce energy consumption in three significant ways: general energy reduction, efficient sizeable dental equipment, and process improvement.
Global energy conservation includes all of the conservation efforts any office can do:
- Reducing the hours of lighting and air-conditioning
- energy-efficient lighting and office equipment
- improved insulation.
- Switching to digital radiography uses less energy and produces less radiation than older x-ray machines. So apart from less pollution to patients, it also means no processing chemicals and film. These are toxic chemicals dental offices pour down the drain into the environment.
- Using LED lighting in dental chairs, light-curing units, and handpieces are growing. These reduce the energy consumption chairside.
The use of renewable energy at the dental office is not economical. The need for significant amperage during the daytime means that local solar and wind generation will not be sufficient. The only inexpensive way is to buy renewable energy from a commercial supplier.
The amount of waste leaving a dental office to landfills is impressive. Most of the materials are recyclable materials – paper, and plastic. The harmful substances are the chemicals used. Infection control disinfectants and sterilization liquids, mercury, heavy metals. These need special consideration.
Going paperless: This is an essential goal of the green dentist. This means a computerized office system, so no paperwork exists. It also means drying instruments and hands with warm air versus paper.
Disposables: While disposables can save time, in most cases, efficient alternatives are using non-disposable systems. Using instruments and materials that use less packaging and needless repeat sterilization packaging can reduce waste. A modern cassette system will reduce the amount of packaging necessary.
Recycling: Recycling is a lifestyle. Re-using packaging is an excellent first step. In a dental office, this means providing the staff and patients with the opportunity to recycle by placing recycling receptacles in all of the waste areas. The sterilization and laboratory areas are the key areas. Apart from the regular and medical waste containers, recycling receptacles can be placed to allow for efficient recycling.
Going organic: Unlike organic food, dental organics means picking the least toxic materials for use in the office. In some countries, these materials are starting to be banned altogether. Elimination of base metal, amalgam, mercury, and carborundum. Removal of glutaraldehyde containing liquids. Reduction or elimination of monomer used.
Offsetting carbon emission At this point, it is clear that most dental offices cannot achieve anything close to carbon neutrality. The only way to close the “gap” at this time is by paying to offset the emissions. This can be done locally or internationally. By buying local conservation land, the dental office can contribute to the local emission control and the local environment. The downside is the cost.
Buying offsetting can now be done on a small scale that is economical even for a medium dental office.
By choosing Midtown Dentistry, you select a dental office that addresses all of the issues – moving towards a greener and more economical future.