How ‘green’ is your dental practice?
Many dental practices are already carrying out green initiatives, but there's more work to do. How do you get started, or how do you improve in your practice's steps to help the environment?
The term “green dentistry” has become more popular in the past decade, but many dentists don’t know exactly what it means or how to implement it in their practices.
Generally speaking, green dentistry reduces the environmental impact by using less energy, producing less waste, and decreasing pollution. You’ve probably already taken steps to make your office greener, whether you realize it or not. However, there are simple ways to make a positive impact on the environment and save money in the long run.
How green are you?
A green office means you’re focused not only on green patient care, but also on business administration and the physical building where you practice.
Digital x-rays—If you’re using digital x-rays, you’re not only exposing your patient to significantly less radiation, but also helping the environment. There is no longer a need for toxic x-ray fixer or the disposal of countless lead foils.
Amalgam—By now, most practices offer composite fillings, either solely or in conjunction with amalgam, which helps the environment. When removing an amalgam filling, you’re at risk of exposure to mercury vapor. If an amalgam restoration is not properly disposed of when it’s removed, it can end up contaminating the water supply. If you’re a dentist who no longer uses amalgam, you’re one step closer to being green.
Disposables—While it’s convenient to use disposable bibs, cups, protective apparel, and infection control items, green offices eliminate the use of disposables whenever possible. Some install energy-efficient washers and dryers so cloth items such as headcovers, gowns, and bibs can be used several times. Reusable cups and air/water syringes can be sterilized in the office. If you do use disposables and are not willing to give them up, be sure you’re recycling all of the waste that you can.
By now, you’ve probably introduced digital technology to your front and/or back office. This not only helps with efficiency, but makes your office greener. Dental software systems instead of paper charts for patient records, using an electronic tablet for patient check-in, and providing patient intake and health history forms for online submission are a few great ways to eliminate paper in your office.
Many modern practices are using patient appointment reminder systems that email recall appointments, which eliminates the need for reminder postcards (and postage). Most of the appointment software comes with e-newsletter features and the ability to email patients. These systems are reasonably priced and worth the investment.
If you own your own building, you have more control over the green initiatives you can implement. Even if you rent or lease office space, you likely can control the paint, flooring, furnishings, cleaning products, and amount of energy used inside your office.
Air quality can be improved through thoughtful consideration of your office décor. Paint that contains no volatile organic compounds reduces the toxins in the air. Furniture and flooring made from natural materials can be used. Some cabinetry contains formaldehyde, so look into the materials used to build your furniture.
Using energy-saving light bulbs, installing motion sensors to conserve energy, or turning off the lights whenever possible are some easy first steps. To take it further, you can install energy-efficient heating and cooling systems and low-flow toilets and faucets.
If you want to positively impact the environment by upgrading your facility, consider seeking a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED is the most widely used green building rating system in the world, and certification can be achieved in any building type.
Finally, if you’re serious about becoming a certified green dentist, you can learn more from the Eco-Dentistry Association (EDA). Going green benefits your patients, your practice, and the environment. Moreover, a growing number of patients are looking for dentists who implement green strategies in their care, business administration, and facility. Making changes to protect our planet can also help you market to a growing number of environmentally-conscious patients.
For the most current practice management headlines, click here.
For the most current dental headlines, click here.
Christine Bahu is the agency founder of SmileMore Marketing. She has helped 100+ dentists bring new patients into their offices through traditional and digital marketing strategies. Her creation of the SmileMore Dental Savings Plan has enabled independent dentists to provide quality care for thousands of uninsured patients throughout the country. She has brought her 30,000+ hours of dental practice management experience to her marketing agency, which helps independent dental practices compete against corporate dentistry.