Celebrating Earth Day: What Dental Practices Can Do To Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

When the first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970, millions of people went outdoors to protest the effects on the planet of 150 years of industry. This annual event is now celebrated for an entire year in 193 countries and focuses on a theme, such as reducing plastics use.

The dental profession has contributed to the movement – from making dental practices and patient visits safer to going paperless, transitioning to digital imaging, using recyclable and reusable materials, and employing amalgam separators and water-filtration systems. In fact, using more eco-friendly products and procedures also has increased practice efficiency. Systems like RevenueWell, a suite of communication and digital tools that streamline many practice management processes, save on paper and postage costs and reduce the amount of paper used, making a significant environmental impact.

The dental profession can play an important role in controlling the environmental impact of the practice of dentistry, and individual practices can contribute on a grassroots level. Here are a few ways dental practices can Reduce, Reuse and Recycle:

Reduce

Find ways to cut down on packaging waste:

  • Bulk-buy items most frequently used: prophy paste, gloves, masks, cotton squares
  • Ask for orders to be combined to reduce number of boxes shipped
  • Set printers to use less ink
  • Adopt digital technologies for X-rays, impressions, cancer screenings, patient records and marketing
  • Use steam sterilization

Reuse

Invest in these reusable products:

  • Cloth sterilization bags and patient aprons
  • Cloth lab coats
  • Reusable face shields
  • Reusable lab and shipping boxes
  • Reusable patient bibs
  • Stainless-steel impression trays and suction tips
  • Glass or porcelain rinsing cups
  • Non-disposable dishes, etc., for the breakroom

Recycle

Recycle responsibly, and purchase items that consist of a percentage of recycled content:

  • Work with companies that recycle instruments into industrial metal
  • Find a sharps disposal service that recycles them into building materials
  • Use a medical paper shredding service that recycles the byproduct
  • Educate staff on recycling; provide guidelines and disposal bins

A single-dentist practice could eliminate more than 40,000 pieces of paper and more than 20,000 pieces of plastic from landfills each year just by switching to reusable patient bibs. By making a few additional changes from the above list, you’ll not only be significantly reducing your practice’s environmental impact but will be showing your patients and community you care.

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