The Green Dental Office What are the implications and impact of the caustic chemicals, xrays, mercury in fillings, and other items found in a medical facility and more specifically a dental office?
These questions have been asked by my patients in the past. There is a higher level of awareness of the environment these days considering that our planet has finite resources and we all need to take care of it. There is tremendous waste in our daily living and as we do business.
On my recent mission trip to Haiti it became very clear what happens when the environment is abused by lack of sanitation and disrespect of the ecology. Because of the abject poverty there is no public sanitation in Haiti, including open sewers or trash pick up so they either throw the trash where ever they please, burn it, or take it on barges and dump it in the ocean. Trash is washed onto the beach that creates a rather depressing image. It reminds me of the ad campaign we had back in the 1970s of the native American with a tear in his eye as he was looking at the waterways and trash. We have come a long way since then but still need to improve on how we take care of what God has given to us.
The other serious problem the Haitians have is that they are loosing their land. Poor people in the country harvest trees to produce charcoal without replanting. The top soil that was once retained by the roots is washed away during heavy rains and hurricanes. This soil covers houses at the bottom of the mountains and affects the ocean where the trash and soil covers the ecosystem in the ocean.Fishing, farming and life in general is affected by this lack of awareness. The question is then: How can I consciously live my life to have the least impact on our environment. If each of us has this attitude then we can make a difference not only for ourselves, but for our children and their children.
Here is how we at our office attempt to have the least impact on our environment:
- We use digital x-rays including scans of the entire jaw and individual teeth of the mouth. This reduces radiation by about 75% and reduces the caustic chemicals needed to process x-ray film that usually gets dumped down our drains and into the treatment facilities. Since we use digital x-ray sensors, potentially harmful lead lined film packets are also eliminated.
- We are paperless and chartless meaning that there are no charts in our office. Our patients fill out necessary forms online or in the office on a tablet computer which completely eliminates paper.
- Digital photographs are taken which helps not only with communication, but the use of photo processing chemicals are not needed..
- All of the batteries used in the office are rechargeable eliminating the waste of batteries. If they are needed to be disposed of they are recycled.
- We have eliminated the use of mercury containing silver dental amalgam with tooth colored composite fillings and haven’t used these types of mercury fillings for over 10 years. We are in the process of installing an amalgam separator that eliminates the mercury from entering the waste water system. It has just been mandated in the state of Michigan that dental offices need these devices. (In my mind it is ironic that many dentists place amalgam in the mouth but the FDA has stated that it is potentially harmful.)
These are a few of the ongoing changes that we are making in our dental practice to make dental treatment both safe for our environment, patients and staff.