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Going Green in the Dental Clinic

By Annika Wuerfel, Class of 2021

When thinking about a dental office, one may not think that “going green” is a feasible or tangible option in running a practice. However, there are many benefits not only for the environment but also for the patient and the bottom line.

After attending the National Leadership Conference discussion on “Going Green in the Dental Clinic,” I learned that being environmentally conscious is more than just recycling paper and using less plastic. There are actually many ways that a dental office can be a green business. The first aspect involves a sustainable design regarding the building and office space.

An office can reduce their carbon footprint by choosing toxin free paint, wool carpets, and recycled ceiling tiles. If remodeling an existing building, decreasing construction costs by reusing the plumbing, heating, and electrical, will not only minimize demolition and construction costs but also reduce waste. When outfitting operatories, it is important to think about the life cycle of equipment and material. How long are these items expected to last and what is the process like for disposing of the items responsibly? By thinking about the long-term life of the design and equipment of a dental clinic, intentional decisions can be made early on to plan for the future.

While planning and designing an environmentally conscious clinic is a great first step, what can be done in regard to everyday dental practice operations? Installing an amalgam separator, choosing digital x-rays, and using electronic medical records are all great options in reducing the use of water, toxic chemicals, and paper. Another option is to use a non-toxic biodegradable sanitation solution to use as an ultrasonic solution, a pre-soak, and to help clear evacuation lines. Depending on the part of the country, choosing to have your office energy sourced from solar or wind options, is also a great strategy. Finally, choosing to give out environmentally conscious toothbrushes made from recycled plastics shows patients that they too can make every day green changes.

If helping the environment wasn’t enough to convince a dentist to go green, perhaps the marketing of a green dental office would be more of a draw. Research has shown that consumers want companies to serve a social purpose. 9 out of 10 people surveyed said they would think more positively about a company if they focused on an issue. Seventy-one percent of people surveyed said they would pay more for a product or service that is socially or environmentally focused. In order to succeed, a business must think about people, the planet, and profit. At a dental office, if you communicate to the patient that going green is a core value by advertising your use of solar power, environmentally conscious office, and eco-friendly dental products, the consumer will respond positively.

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