Bhagyalakshmi Avinash et al
Going Green with Eco-friendly Dentistry
Bhagyalakshmi Avinash, BS Avinash, BM Shivalinga, S Jyothikiran, MN Padmini
Eco-friendly dentistry is currently transforming the medical and
dental field to decrease its affect on our natural environment
and reduce the amount of waste being produced. Eco-friendly
dentistry uses a sustainable approach to encourage dentists to
implement new strategies to try and reduce the energy being
consumed and the large amount of waste being produced by
the industry. Many reasonable, practical and easy alternatives
do exist which would reduce the environmental footprint of a
dental office were it to follow the ‘green’ recommendations.
Dentist should take a leading role in the society by implementing
‘green’ initiatives to lessen their impact on the environment.
This article provides a series of ‘green’ recommendations
that dentists around the world can implement to become a
leading Stewards of the environment.
Keywords: Eco-friendly, Environment, Green, Atmosphere.
How to cite this article: Avinash B, Avinash BS, Shivalinga
BM, Jyothikiran S, Padmini MN. Going Green with Eco-friendly
Dentistry. J Contemp Dent Pract 2013;14(4):766-769.
Source of support: Nil
Conflict of interest: None declared
Providing good dental care is the prime objective for any
clinician. Good dental care means giving the best to the
patient and this includes creating a comfortable and patient
friendly atmosphere. Dentistry has evolved in terms of
materials and the techniques. The recent materials and
treatment techniques promises to provide the best to the
patient. In order to provide best to the patient the
environment should not be damaged. The modern methods
of patient care demand a price to play, in the form of heavy
loads of landfills, garbage and biomedical waste. These
wastes have an adverse effect on the environment. Although
individual dentists generate only small amount of
environmentally unfriendly wastes, the accumulated waste
produced by the profession may have a significant
environmental impact.1-3 Raw materials and new materials
are exploited because of reduced recycling and increase in
demand.4 There is contamination of ground water and
aquifers by leakage produced by decaying matter and off
gassing of methane. Incinerators are commonly used to
dispose off this type of waste. The by-products of
incinerators such as carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide can
cause global warming. Ash produced from incinerators can
be a source of contamination.5 Atmospheric concentration
of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have increased
significantly since 1960s. These gases namely, carbon
dioxide and methane are leading cause of global warming.
Methane is mostly released from landfills and can absorb
23 times as much infrared radiation as carbon dioxide,
warming the earth’s surface.
Medical and dental industry play a crucial role in
producing and adding to the amount of waste hauled off to
landfills. Many environmental and health issues stand
testament to the need and to reduced waste deposited in
landfills each year.
‘Eco-friendly’ and ‘Green’ are terms that are widely used
today and can indicate several things, such as renewability,
sustainability, energy efficiency, nontoxicity, being
minimally invasive, having a reduction in carbon foot print,
and having a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
By combining the health of humans with the health of our
environment, ecofriendly dentistry provides an opportunity
to reduce further degradation6 of our planet. Almost every
health care setting worldwide-hospitals, extended-care
facilities, urgent-care facilities, medical offices, and dental
offices-utilize PBT (persistent bio-accumulative toxins)
such as mercury, lead, PVC, DEHP, VOCs (volatile organic
compounds), PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) and
HBCDs (hexabromocyclododecans), and other harmful
elements, which with exposure can adversely affect the
health of team members, patients, and the environment.
As early as 1994, the US. Environmental protection agency
Going Green with Eco-friendly Dentistry
The Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice, July-August 2013;14(4):766-769
identified medical waste incineration as the leading source
of dioxin, a potent carcinogen. The US ranks the health
care sector as the 4th largest source of mercury air emissions
due to their contribution via medical/dental waste
incinerators. Given these facts, it becomes an inherent duty
and obligation for the entire dental community to follow
suit as integral members of health-care community. This is
where Eco-friendly dentistryTM has emerged. The term Eco-
friendly dentistry has been coined and trademarked by the
founder of Ora Dental StudioTM, the nation’s first green
group dental practice.
DEFINITION OF ECO-FRIENDLY DENTISTRY
Eco-friendly dentistry is a newly evolving practice of
dentistry, which encompasses a simultaneous devotion to
simultaneous devotion to sustainability, prevention,
precaution, and a minimally invasive patient-centric as well
as global centric treatment philosophy. Eco-friendly
dentistry, through green design and operations, protects the
immediate health of patients and team members, the health
of the surrounding community, and the health of global
community and natural resources.
In June 2009, the Eco-friendly dentistry association was
launched internationally. There are dentists residing in
20 US states as well as some in Canada, who have joined
the association in order to help offices around the world
become better suited for the environment.7 Dr Fred Pockrass
and his wife Ina started Eco-friendly in order to recruit many
professionals into this association. We generate much waste
in dental offices daily. Everything from gauze to chair cover
to headrest covers to amalgam to X-ray development
chemicals end up in landfills.
HOW TO GO GREEN
Green Building and Leed
Green building is the practice of increasing efficiency with
which buildings use resources-energy, water and materials.
Green building focus on the use of natural materials that is
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental
Design. Developed by the US Green Building Council in
2000, it is a rating system for green buildings and represents
the nationally accepted benchmark for their design,
construction, and operation. LEED ratings reflect sustainable
site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials
selection, and indoor environmental quality.
Electronics in the Office
When the computer is not in use, shut it down or at least put
it to sleep or stand-by mode which causes the computer to
consume 70% less electricity.
Use compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. They last
8 to 12 times larger than incadescents, at a quarter the cost
per hour. They also produce 70% less heat than incadescents
Paper and Building
Paper is not only a waste product; it’s expensive and
diminishes natural resources. By reducing the amount of
paper used in the office, we can reduce the amount of paper
needed to be stored or purchased. Hence, everyone should
think before printing and make sure everything is accurate
before hitting the print button. When printing a document
that may not be final, print it in draft mode. The draft mode
uses approximately 50%of the ink used in normal print
mode. Some softwares like ecoPrint Ink and Toner Saver
are available that can reduce up to 75% of ink usage.
Traditional X-rays result in significant and pollution. Digital
dental radiographs expose patients to 70 to 90% less
radiation exposure than traditional X-rays. By going digital,
we would no longer generate paper, plastic, or lead waste
by discarding empty film packets and no longer would we
be dumping developer and fixer into drains and water
supplies. Digital images also require 75 to 90% less radiation
than conventional images.
Convert the office to chartless or paperless by utilizing
practice-management software. Most softwares (e.g. Dentrix,
Practice Works, Softdent, Eagle Soft) are set up. So we can
do just anything and everything via computer. Consider
sending text and communications via e-mail instead of
sending postcards and statements through the mail.
Silver amalgam is one of the most commonly used
permanent restorations for the teeth. Although dental
amalgam is a durable, cost effective and long lasting
restorative material,8-12 it contains mercury,silver and other
metals that can enter the environment.12-16 Mercury is
biocompatible and is known to have toxic effects in plants,
animals and humans.2,12,17-19 Currently it has been estimated
that dentists contribute between 3 and 70%10,14,19-21 of the
total mercury load entering waste water treatment facilities.
Hence, the most important environmental initiative for any
dental office is to install an amalgam separator. This
equipment keeps mercury filling material from entering
Bhagyalakshmi Avinash et al
water supply. A number of ISO 11143-certified amalgam
seperators are able to reduce amalgam particles in dental
waste water by more than 95%.3,12,14,22-28 These devices
separate the fine particles (generated during restoration
finishing, polishing and removal procedures) from waste
water11,16 thereby limiting the amount sent to waste water
management facilities of the environment. Amalgam
separators are readily available, relatively inexpensive and
a low maintenance piece of equipment.
Waterless Vacuum System
Dental vacuum systems can use as much as 360 gallons of
water per day. With the world facing a serious water crisis,
we should not be pouring this precious resource down the
drain. High tech, dry vacuum systems accomplish the same
results yet use no water at all.
(Inoffice Laboratory Restorations)
It is a convenient completion of lab quality restorations in
single appointment. It reduces greenhouse gases produced
from patient and staff travel for the multiple appointments,
and the shipping of impressions and final restorations,
sometimes as far as overseas.
Dental office infection control and sterilization processes
can be a major source of pollution and waste in the traditional
dental practice. Chemicals used in infection control and
sterilization processes in the dental office can be quite
dangerous. They can jeopardize employee health, contribute
to poor office air quality and can pollute our community
water stream. In the Eco-friendly practice, replace chemical
based sterilization with steam sterilization. Toxic cold
sterilization methods are eliminated.
The key to reducing our waste is to extend the life of things
we use. Health professionals are on the leading edge of
helping to heal our planet by introducing the four ‘R’s—
Re-think, Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.29 It is common to think
of recycling as the first solution to handling our trash, but
reducing and reusing are actually much more effective. And
by implementing these 4 easy steps, dentistry and dental
hygienists are beginning to transform the medical industry
into a more sustainable one.
Inorder to decrease the pressure on the earth’s resources,
people must decrease or reducetheir consumption of them.
Packaging accounts for 33% of garbage. Purchase of
products with minimal packaging and use of reusable plastic
container (e.g. For cleansing and disinfecting solutions) can
reduce general waste production.24
Examples of dental office opportunities to reduce:
• Purchase often used items in bulk for, e.g. Prophy paste,
masks, hand gloves, etc.
• Request supply companies combine orders to cut down
on shipping boxes.
• Set printers for double sided printing. Single-spaced
printing and use of both sides of pages can decrease the
amount of paper used in the dental office.6
• Implement digital technology for imaging impressions,
cancer screening, charting and marketing.
• Use steam sterilization eliminating the use of chemicals.
This step helps us to prolong the use of items. Extending
the life cycle of an item by re-using it eliminates the need
to transport it away. Plastic, single use items can be replaced
with stainless steel ones that can be sterilized and reused
for years, like impression trays. Reuse of materials saves
the resources and gives the material new life by using it
second time in a new way.7
Examples of dental office reusable:
• Switch to cloth sterilization bags and patient barriers.
• Wear cloth lab coats instead of paper ones.
• Use a reusable face shield.
• Reuse lab and shipping boxes.
• Switch to stainless steel impression trays, suction tips.
• Provide glass or ceramic rinse cups.
• Use washable dishes and cutlery in the staff break room.
Recycling should be our last resort and we need to do a
much better job recycling everything that we can. Recycling
is a viable way to reduce overall contamination of the
Examples of dental office recyclables:
• Participation in an instrument recycling program that
turns them into industrial metal.
• Use sharp disposal service that recycles them into
• Recycle copy paper and choose a medical shredding
service that recycles the shredded paper.
• Provide recycling bins for staff break-room waste.
Every decision is made with a certain mindset, and redeveloping
a mindset is a strategy for change. Environmentalism and
Going Green with Eco-friendly Dentistry
The Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice, July-August 2013;14(4):766-769
sustainability are both considered states of the mind.
Rethinking the way that dentist offices are seen is the initial
step in trying to change the modern practice. Implementing
simple changes like things we can add or change, and
decrease energy and water consumption are the initial
strategies to consider.
Green dentistry is a high-tech approach that reduces the
environmental impact of dental practice and encompasses
a secure model for dentistry that supports and maintains
wellness. Green dentistry meets the needs of millions of
wellness life style patients, and helps dental professionals
protect planetary and community health, as well as the
financial health of their practices. As health practitioners,
we should be concerned with promoting not only human
health and well-being but also that of the environment.
Being ‘green’ in dental practice will make one feel better
about oneself and what we are doing for humankind.
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Bhagyalakshmi Avinash (Corresponding Author)
Reader, Department of Orthodontics, JSS Dental College and Hospital
Mysore, Karnataka, India, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reader, Department of Periodontics, JSSDC and Hospital, Mysore
Head, Department of Orthodontics, JSSDC and Hospital, Mysore
Reader, Department of Orthodontics, JSSDC and Hospital, Mysore
Professor, Department of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopaedics
Government Dental College, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India