As New York Rallies to Address Climate Change, Advances in Sustainable Dentistry Make a Difference
With climate change as the UN’s focus this week, new advances in sustainable dentistry can make a big difference. Dentistry has come a long way since its inception, evolving not only in terms of technology and technique but also in its environmental impact. As we become increasingly aware of the importance of sustainable living, green dentistry is emerging as a vital practice within the field. The rise of mobile dentistry also contributes to this eco-friendly approach, when the solution is designed appropriately and does not rely on fleets of clinical vehicles. So as world leaders, captains of industry, scientists, and activists meet in New York City this week to discuss mitigating the adversity of climate change, let’s examine the various practices that dentists and patients can adopt to reduce their ecological footprint while maintaining excellent oral health.
Changing Our Ways to Combat Climate Change
“The United Nations General Assembly began Monday, drawing hundreds of heads of state to town,” noted New York Times climate columnist David Gelles in his coverage of the March to End Fossil Fuels, an event in which tens of thousands of activists took over Midtown Manhattan to raise awareness for sustainability. “A plethora of satellite events are clogging city streets, including Climate Week, the Clinton Global Initiative, a pair of Bloomberg gatherings and our own Climate Forward event on Thursday.”
Climate change is the greatest global health threat facing the 21st century. It holds the power to imperil the planet’s species and resources, along with the livelihoods of its people.The World Health Organization estimates that between 2030 and 2050, climate change will cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress.
We often remind people that oral health is overall health. What happens in your mouth can directly affect your physical and mental wellbeing. But how we choose to take care of our teeth and gums can also directly influence the climate by way of pollutants and carbon emissions. This is where dental providers and patients can act wisely, decisively, and proactively to help ensure the health of the body on which we all rely – Mother Nature’s.
Advances in Sustainable Dentistry
Green dentistry, also known as eco-dentistry or sustainable dentistry, is a branch of dentistry that focuses on reducing the environmental impact of dental practices and promoting oral health in harmony with nature. It encompasses a wide range of eco-conscious practices aimed at conserving resources, reducing waste, and minimizing pollution in the dental office. The solutions themselves are relatively simple and often mirror the best practices we’re asked to embrace in our own households: focus on exercising environmental conscious practices such as reducing energy consumption, recycling, and using sustainable materials and products.
As with most business sectors, the dental industry has an impact on the environment. For example, dental offices use large amounts of water and energy, and they generate waste. Green dentistry practices can help to reduce these ecological footprints to benefit the environment and patients at the same time.
Green Dentistry Methods
- Energy Efficiency: Dental offices can reduce their energy consumption by using energy-efficient lighting, HVAC systems, and appliances. Installing solar panels or using renewable energy sources can further reduce the carbon footprint.
- Water Conservation: Implementing water-saving technologies, such as low-flow faucets and waterless vacuum systems, can significantly reduce water usage in dental procedures.
- Eco-Friendly Materials: Dentists can opt for biocompatible and sustainable materials, such as composite resin fillings instead of amalgam fillings that contain mercury. Digital impressions can also reduce the need for traditional, wasteful molds.
- Waste Management: Dental offices can minimize waste by implementing proper recycling programs for materials like paper, cardboard, and plastics. Additionally, some practices use amalgam separators to capture and recycle mercury waste.
- Green Sterilization: Choosing chemical-free or low-impact sterilization methods, such as steam sterilization, can reduce the use of harmful chemicals.
- Paperless Practices: Transitioning to electronic health records (EHR) and digital radiography reduces paper consumption and storage space while enhancing data security.
- Eco-Friendly Office Design: Dental offices can be designed with sustainability in mind, incorporating eco-friendly building materials and energy-efficient design elements.
- Reduced Environmental Impact: Perhaps the most apparent benefit of sustainable dentistry is its positive effect on the environment. By adopting sustainable practices, dental offices can reduce their carbon footprint, conserve water, and decrease the amount of hazardous waste generated.
- Healthier Work Environment: Green dentistry often involves the use of biocompatible materials, which can be healthier for both patients and dental professionals. This reduces the risk of exposure to harmful chemicals and allergens commonly found in traditional dental materials.
- Cost Savings: Many eco-friendly dental practices can result in cost savings for dental offices in the long run. Energy-efficient equipment, reduced water consumption, and less waste production can lead to lower operational expenses.
- Patient Satisfaction: Patients are becoming increasingly eco-conscious, and many appreciate dental offices that share their commitment to sustainability. Going green can enhance patient trust and loyalty.
Mobile Dentistry Contributes to Sustainability
House calls are firmly ingrained in the fabric of American culture and history. We’ve all heard stories about the country doctor who traveled across hill and dale to care for patients around the local community. Today, many people believe the tradition exists only in nostalgia, period-piece stories, small rural towns, or the memories of our elders. They seem surprised when we tell them we specialize in house calls. The Blende Dental Group, home of House Call Dentists, ushered in the renaissance of house calls long ago. In fact, Jonathan Wolfe covered House Call Dentists in his 2017 New York Times article. We have since evolved that concept and expanded it to the corporate world through Dentists on Demand.
For dentistry, portability represents new access to care for people who would otherwise go without treatment. What people may not realize is that mobile dentistry provides an eco-friendly alternative.
Mobile dentistry is a more environmentally sustainable approach to dental care as it eliminates the need for patients to travel to a traditional dental office, thereby reducing carbon emissions and promoting sustainability. Through Dentists on Demand, our teams pioneered a mobile dentistry solution that delivers oral care right to a company’s workforce. Utilizing a conference room or unoccupied space, our team sets up a portable dental unit to treat employees on site. This helps the environment in a variety of ways.
- We reduce carbon emissions by seeing an entire group of employees at one location, eliminating the need for them to travel individually to offices across cities and counties.
- All water, electricity, utilities, and waste are concentrated into one site, not multiple offices.
- By setting up our mobile dental suites in a client’s office, typically using just one vehicle to arrive, we also help prevent the pollution caused by other mobile dental outfits that employ fleets of vans to serve as clinics on wheels.
The portable equipment used in mobile dentistry is also eco-friendly. Digital x-rays are an essential part of the mobile dental suites. Not only are they portable, they improve quality and accuracy while reducing exposure to radiation. They also help the environment.
According to the Eco Dentistry Association, dental clinics produce 28 million liters of hazardous x-ray fixers every year. Greater reliance on digital imaging will remove the harmful chemicals and materials from the environment that are produced by conventional radiography.
Patients Must Also Play a Part in Sustainability
Conservation isn’t just a responsibility that dental providers must shoulder. And advances in sustainable dentistry alone can go only so far. Patients also play a crucial role in promoting green dentistry. Here are just a few ways you can participate in sustainable dental efforts independently.
- Practice water conservation at home and reduce waste through reusable dental products.
- Purchase oral care products with sustainable packaging and eco-friendly ingredients.
- Use a bamboo toothbrush and compost it after it’s worn out.
- Recycle your dental floss and mouthwash containers.
- Cut down on using disposable dental products, such as floss picks and interdental brushes.
- Hydration is an important part of oral health because it prevents dry mouth, a leading cause of tooth decay, gingivitis (gum inflammation), and periodontal disease. By relying on reusable water bottles, you can help prevent oral hygiene and ecological problems simultaneously.
Advances in sustainable dentistry are not only about preserving the health of your teeth and gums, they’re about preserving the health of the planet. By embracing sustainable practices and making eco-conscious choices, both dental professionals and patients can contribute to a greener, healthier future. Together, we can ensure that a visit to the dentist not only brightens our smiles but also leaves a positive mark on the environment.
The when and where are up to you.