How Dental Offices Can Be More Eco-friendly and Invest in Our Planet

History of Earth Day - United States

Earth Day marks the anniversary of the original environmental movement effort in 1970. Before Earth Day, the environment was often treated with little regard for animal extinction, pesticide use, industry-damaging consequences, and poisonous chemicals such as leaded gasoline. Call in the college students. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, opposition to the Vietnam War and the current political leadership, and the ongoing dissatisfaction with American culture led college students to take action. The students funnelled this passion into protest demonstrations hoping to prompt social change. In 1969, Senator Gaylord Nelson had the idea to bring together an activist, Dennis Hayes, and enthusiastic college students to organize protests intended to make other students aware of the toxic path the world was on. The events were successful; thousands of universities, colleges, and students were on board. Dennis Hayes realized the need for all Americans to be aware of and understand the importance of a healthy, sustainable earth. Hayes coordinated his staff to promote environmental awareness events across America. Many organizations and faith groups soon joined the movement. Earth Day was born. The first Earth Day inspired 20 million Americans to make their voices heard, demonstrate against the polluting effects of uncontrolled industry, and acknowledge pollution's health impact on humans, animals, and the environment. By the end of 1970, the first Earth Day led to the formation of environmental laws and pollution regulating agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Endangered Species Act, and the Clean Air Act.

 

History of Earth Day - Going Global in 1990

Once again, Dennis Hayes was asked to work on another aspect of the environmental program, organizing its global impact. Earth Day-Global edition was underway, with 200 million people in 141 countries expressing concern for the world's ecological issues. One major topic of Earth Day 1990 was to improve worldwide recycling. Over the years, Hayes and his organizing skill have brought Earth Day's attention to global warming and clean energy.

 

Earth Day 2022 - Invest in Our Planet

Today, as people were in 1970, we are not sitting by and ignoring the world's plight. We are making ourselves seen and heard and demanding change for ourselves and the world. The use of social media and the ease of the digital world enables the concerns, conversations, and protests to reach global audiences and bring them together. The theme of Earth Day 2022 is "Invest in Our Planet" to preserve and protect our health, our families, and our livelihoods. Even small things like recycling in our own homes, choosing hybrid vehicles, and not littering can still make an impact to keep the earth healthy and green.

 

Going Green with Eco-Friendly Dentistry

Any step to help save our planet, no matter how small, like picking up a piece of trash, is a step in the right direction. Dental offices can contribute to the Earth Day movement by reducing, rethinking, recycling, and reusing within our practices. Healthcare services contribute significantly to waste and plastic pollution.

Many plastic items have been in use within medical and dental practices since the 1950s. Plastic products were developed to reduce the production costs of more expensive materials. These products were also designed to be used more than once following disinfecting procedures. The AIDS epidemic in the 1980's changed the intended use of these products to single-use as a more effective means of controlling disease and increasing patient safety. The 2019 pandemic added another level of excess product usage with additional PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) requirements. So what can we do in our dental practice to help? We need many of these products, and reuse of some is not an option, but even small measures over time can impact our beautiful earth.

 

How Dental Offices Can Be More Eco-friendly

Reduce:

  • Buy in bulk such as prophy paste, masks, gloves, and request that the manufacturers combine orders to cut down on shipping boxes
  • Go paperless and transition to digital methods for radiographic images, impressions, charting, etc.
  • Use text messaging and online patient portals to communicate with patients for appointment reminders and new-patient medical history and consent forms

Reuse:

  • Does your office need an upgrade? Look into donating your used dental equipment to organizations that repurpose gently used equipment such as chairs, instruments, and autoclaves.
  • Purchase multi-use products (Please note: According to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) guidance entitled Labeling Recommendations for Single-Use Devices Reprocessed by Third Parties and Hospitals, "a single-use device, also referred to as a disposable device, [is] intended for use on one patient during a single procedure. It is not intended to be reprocessed (cleaned, disinfected/sterilized) and used on another patient. The labelling may or may not identify the device as single-use or disposable and does not include instructions for reprocessing." If a device does not have reprocessing instructions, it should be considered single-use and disposed of after one use, in accordance with local waste management system regulations.1)

Recycle:

  • Install amalgam separators
  • Involve patients to recycle used toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, floss containers etc. You can set up a dental recycling bin right in your office with Terracycle Zero Waste Boxes: Oral Care Products & Packaging 2
  • Recycle as much plastic as possible; use designated bins for cups, disinfectant wipe containers, water bottles, etc. (check with trash recycling systems in your area)

Rethink:

 

So not only on April 22 of each year but every day, let us join together to make an impact, no matter how small, to keep this earth beautiful. We owe it to ourselves and future generations. Happy Earth Day-Invest in Our Planet!!

 


 

References:

  1. "Labeling Recommendations for Single-Use Devices Reprocessed by Third Parties and Hospitals" FDA.org, July 2001, https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/labeling-recommendations-single-use-devices-reprocessed-third-parties-and-hospitals.
  2. Terracycle Zero Waste Boxes: Oral Care Products & Packaging

 

Maryanne Ferree RDH, BS, PHDHP

Maryanne holds a Bachelor of Science with a focus in dental hygiene education from the College of General Studies at the University of Pittsburgh and maintains a license as a Public Health Dental Hygiene Practitioner. She has over 35 years of clinical experience. Maryanne is currently clinical faculty in the Department of Periodontics and Preventive Dentistry focusing her clinical teaching on Advanced Periodontal Instrumentation and is finishing her Public Health Master’s thesis on Infection Control in Dental Practices.