Making Dentistry Greener: Dr. Stan Park, Others Comment

Did you know that the waste residue generated by Ontario dentists in Canada in putting in and removing mercury fillings contains between 42 percent to 54 percent mercury by weight, according to a study published by the Canadian Dental Association?

Did you also know the same study concluded that when dental offices don’t use mercury separation equipment, 60 percent of the mercury amalgam residue is released into Ontario’s wastewater? dentistry

amalgam separator. image from November Ella (CC, Wikimedia)

Statistics like these demonstrate that environmental initiatives are relevant to a cross section of industries, one of which is the dental industry.

Understanding that dentistry impacts the environment, green dentistry or eco-dentistry has evolved over the years with a goal of instilling greener practices in the field at large.

“Green dentistry is a high-tech approach that reduces the environmental impact of dental practices,” the Eco-Dentistry Association explains. “Many innovations on the leading edge of dental technology are also better for patients and the planet.”

The Eco-Dentistry Association was founded to encourage environmentally-sound practices and offers a wealth of resources for dentists and for patients looking for eco-friendly dentists.

Demand for Greener Dental Equipment Spurs Innovation

There’s plenty of activity in the development of innovative instrumentation and technology.

As dentists will tell you, lighting is one of the most crucial elements in any dental office. In March 2017, the German specialty glass maker, Schott, introduced two high-tech green products at the International Dental Show (IDS) in Cologne, Germany. Bright, precise lighting is needed when working in hard-to-reach areas during diagnosis and treatment. Schott’s extremely bright Solidur LED lights can be added to dental instruments that include intraoral cameras and scalers.

The company’s Puravis glass fiber rods, which is for use in dental instruments, also happen to be made with environmentally friendly materials.

Meanwhile, another company called Eco-Bee sells a number of environmentally friendly, allergen-free products for dentists and other medical professionals. BeeSure Powder-Free Latex Dental Dams have a low protein content that minimizes latex allergen exposure. The company’s Natural Face Masks are made of earth-friendly cellulose and are latex- and fiberglass-free.

The Mercury Issue

The fact is medical facilities generate a tremendous amount of waste — some of which is hazardous. Dental offices are no exception.

Look no further than to the mercury used to bind metals in dental amalgams, which is then used to fill cavities. Unfortunately, a certain portion of the mercury used in dental offices finds itself in our water systems.

Increasingly, though, there are solutions to the mercury problem.

Dentists can avoid using mercury altogether and go with alternatives like composites, gold or ceramics. They can also buy an amalgam separator, which filters the waste from the office’s wastewater.

Finally, mercury can also be recycled, if there’s a facility in the area capable of handling it: the American Dental Association website has a list of mercury recycling facilities.

Stemming The Tide of Medical Office Waste

Single-use disposable supplies like autoclave wraps and patient bibs generate a lot of bulky waste. More dentists are switching to reusable items and replacing disposable prophy cups and plastic endodontics suction tips with stainless steel ones.

Other offices, meanwhile, are going paperless to reduce waste and using electronic patient charts and electronic billing.

Dentists Are Leading The Charge

The good news is that more dentists are becoming increasingly proactive about making their offices greener.

One such dentist, Dr. Stan Park, who works in Mississauga, Ontario, explains how the eco-conscious landscape has changed during his nearly three decades in practice. “When I started out, we didn’t think as much about what kind of environmental footprint we were making as dentists,” he says. “Now, there are so many more green resources for dentists who want to create more sustainable practices … It’s become easier for dentists to introduce green practices into their offices, partially because there’s now a better selection of tools and technologies.”

Dr. Stan Park then adds, “Our patients are more aware of the issues, too. When a patient registers concerns about mercury fillings, I advise them on alternatives,” Dr. Park said. “If they already have mercury fillings and want to have them removed, there are now other, more environmentally friendly options as well.”

“The sustainability movement may seem distant at first, but it can be quite relevant to the day-to-day workings of your dental practice. But maintaining a commitment…can be beneficial to any dental practice in the long run.” This from Dr. Gabriel Sangalang of Watson Dental Care in Orlando, Fla. in the online dentistry trade resource Dentistry IQ.

Ultimately, though, patients are driving this trend. As more people seek out eco-friendly dentists and request more environmentally sound treatments and diagnostic tools, dentists will meet the demand.

This article was sponsored by Beverly Meyer

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