If you're going green, let your patients know it!

Feb. 11, 2011
A unique view of promoting your practice from DE managing editor Kevin Henry.

By Kevin Henry
Managing Editor, Dental Economics

No matter the seminar, no matter the place, no matter the speaker … there is always one message that rings true in the hearts and minds of every dental professional — finding a way to not only keep current patients happy, but also add new patients into the mix.

With so many areas of the nation saturated with dental practices, it’s hard for a dentist on Corner A to stand out from a dentist on Corner B. You can say you create the most beautiful smiles and craft the best-looking restorations, but isn’t that the same message being told down the street? Do patients really know or understand when you tell them your restorative work on number 14 is the best in town? Do patients care?

Everyone is always looking for a “hook” to reach patients, whether they are new patients, ones who haven't been in the practice for some time, or those who are consistent and valued customers. One thing that is often overlooked in a dental practice that can make a huge difference in patients’ minds is the steps your dental practice is taking to “go green” and help the environment. These Earth-friendly steps might even be things that your practice has done for years that you and your patients don’t even realize are helping the environment.

Why is “going green” so important? Well, there’s the superhero answer of “saving the planet one household or office at a time.” There’s also the answer that a majority of your patients believe the green movement is important to them … and therefore it should be important to you.

According to the BBMG Conscious Consumer Report, nine in 10 Americans say the words “conscious consumer” describe them well. According to the same report, 87% said that, when given a choice between similar offerings, they would select the entity that demonstrates a commitment to social responsibility. Do you see an opportunity here for your practice?

A recent marketing study found that 93% of Americans believe companies have a responsibility to help preserve the environment. According to the same study, 32% of Americans say they are more interested in environmental issues than they were a year ago, and 85% of those surveyed said they’d consider switching products or services if they learned a company was more environmentally conscious than its competitor. Do you see an opportunity here for your practice?

“Going green” in your practice isn’t as hard as you think, and it may be something you’re already doing. For example, do you have digital radiography?

Dr. Cynthia Brattesani from San Francisco notes that digital technology is a powerful indicator of green consciousness at work in her practice. Many developing chemicals contain hazardous substances. Fixer and traditional X-ray film contain silver, processor cleaner can contain chromium, unused developer can contain hydroquinone, and traditional X-ray wrappers harbor lead. Dr. Brattesani adds that in her area, it is unlawful to spill these down the drain because they pollute the waterways. So, additional labor is needed to store traditional chemicals in appropriate containers, inspect them once a week for leaks, and dispose of them properly. A digital radiography system eliminates all of that extra work and mess, as well as any potential health concerns.

Do you use CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs) in your practice? Do you use electronic appointment reminders rather than sending out postcards? Do you have energy-saving appliances in your practice’s kitchen or a WaterSense toilet in your restroom? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, tell your patients! You’re missing a golden opportunity to let them know your practice is committed to helping the environment, and because it’s something you’re already doing, it won’t cost your practice a dime.

How can you tell your patients about the steps you’re taking? Send it out in your next electronic newsletter. Have a laminated sign made for the front desk. Make individual plaques for each operatory stating what parts of that room are “environmentally friendly.” However you decide to promote what you’re doing, be sure to do something to let your patients know. Don’t keep it a secret. Figure out a plan to promote your practice’s “green efforts,” get the entire team involved, and then share your efforts with the world.

If you want to take the next step and include more environmentally friendly products into your practice, here are some suggestions…

DentalEZ’s everLight -- The everLight™ LED operatory light provides color-corrected lighting and precise light pattern. In terms of helping the environment, the LED everLight provides energy-efficient features simply not possible using traditional halogen lighting. The everLight encompasses a long life of 30,000-plus hours, 10 times longer than halogen, reducing the need for regular replacement of light bulbs. Moreover, dental professionals will enjoy substantial savings on monthly energy expenses, as the everLight uses less than 35 watts of energy, 70% less than halogen-based systems. For more information about everLight, call (866) DTE-INFO or visit www.dentalez.com.

Medicom SafeGauze® Green Non-Woven Sponges
-- Medicom recently made a big splash with its first green offering – SafeGauze® Green, which is 100% natural and 100% biodegradable. Made from two natural fibers, including organically grown cotton and Lyocell® (which is made from wood pulp and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council to ensure that each tree taken to manufacture the fiber is replaced with a new one), SafeGauze Green is earth-friendly. For more information, log on to www.medicom.com or call (800) 361-2862.

PureLife -- PureLife calls itself “the dental industry’s first environmentally friendly and socially responsible dental supply company.” With a motto of “supplies for a cleaner tomorrow,” PureLife has partnered with Carbonfund.org to offset all of its carbon emissions, including those that result from the transportation and delivery of products to customers. All product deliveries from PureLife are certified as CarbonFree Shipping. For more information, log on to www.purelifegloves.com or call (877) 777-3303.

Pelton & Crane’s full line of AeroPure Vacuum and Compressor Accessories -- Did you know that a dual, two-horsepower, wet-ring vacuum in your practice can use up to 240,000 gallons of water per year (two gallons per minute x 60 minutes per hour x eight hours per day x five days per week x 50 weeks per year). How much is 240,000 gallons? The average hot tub holds 450 to 500 gallons and seats six adults. 240,000 gallons can fill 480 hot tubs. Do you want to reduce your water usage and save some hot tubs? AeroPure’s oil-less dry regenerative blower technology is described by Pelton & Crane as the greenest in its class. No water or oil is needed, which greatly reduces the environmental footprint. For more information, visit www.pelton.net or call (800) 659-6560.

Midmark Integra dental cabinetry -- What makes Integra different? The casework is primarily constructed of steel and medium density fiberboard (MDF), materials that consist of a high-recycled content. Integra MDF panels are made of NFA board, with no formaldehyde added, for improved indoor air quality. Best of all, these are all standard product features with the Integra line, meaning there is no “green product” upcharge for customers. Also, Midmark recently announced that all of its products manufactured with composite wood components are now in compliance with the California Air Resource Board (CARB) airborne toxic control measure to control formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products. CARB compliancy is just one step in a companywide movement to a “greener,” more environmentally friendly approach to its current and future products. For more information, call (800) MIDMARK or visit www.midmark.com.

Check out these five products, and don’t forget to ask your sales rep what green options are available for your practice the next time he or she visits you.

Kevin Henry has worked at PennWell Corporation in Tulsa, Okla., for more than a decade and currently serves as the editor of Dental Assisting Digest and Proofs, as well as the managing editor of Dental Economics. He earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tulsa and received his master’s degree in communications from The University of Oklahoma. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].