Suzanne Yorke Recycling 2

Ohio dental hygiene students recycle oral supplies to reduce patient costs

March 15, 2017
Dental hygiene students at University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College collect used dental supplies for recycling to help reduce treatment costs at school's clinic.

Students in the dental hygiene program at University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College are collecting used dental supplies and submitting them for recycling. The goal is to use the proceeds they receive to help patients in the Dental Hygiene Clinic pay for services they can’t afford.

“Our graduating class wants to raise money for patients who need help in paying for x-rays,” says Suzanne Yorke (pictured), the dental hygiene student who is coordinating the project. “Our cost is already low in our clinic, but some of our patients can’t afford the $10 for an x-ray. That’s a concern since we have learned in class how important these can be in diagnosing hidden issues beneath the gumlines, as well as cavities between teeth.”

The students submit the old dental supplies to TerraCycle, an organization that reuses items that are hard to recycle to make playground equipment. Yorke says she learned about the dental waste recycling program, which is sponsored by Colgate, in a professional dental care magazine.

She said, “I noticed that there is a lot of waste generated in dentistry, and I thought that recycling at-home dental care items like toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes and empty floss containers would be one way to mitigate some of that. The fact that we can also raise money to help patients is definitely a nice bonus.”

In addition to helping patients, there is an environmental benefit too. So far the students have diverted over 30 pounds of dental waste from landfills.

The students have sent such a large quantity of old dental items to TerraCycle over the past year, the organization recently sent them a new collection bin to replace the small box they had been using. Donations come in from students, faculty, and staff at UC Blue Ash, as well as patients of the Dental Hygiene Clinic.

“I am so impressed by the leadership and generosity our students have displayed in organizing this project,” says Cyndee Stegeman, professor and chair of the Dental Hygiene Department at UC Blue Ash. “They did this on their own, separate from their other community service projects, because they saw a need among our clinic patients and identified a way to help.”

The goal is to raise $100, which would cover the cost of x-rays for 10 clinic patients; they are about 75 percent of the way there. The fundraising goal may not sound like much, but the payoff is a little over $2 for every pound of recycled items. When you’re talking about lightweight, small items like toothbrushes and empty toothpaste tubes, it can take a lot of donations to equal just one pound.

UC Blue Ash College is a regional college within the University of Cincinnati.