Like so many services today, dental clinics can ‘go green’ and offer consumers an environmentally friendly option for their oral healthcare needs. But having an eco-conscious USP (unique sustainability point) doesn’t necessarily mean excess or high-risk costs. In fact, doing the right thing for the planet can also unlock hidden savings.
Here’s how dental clinics can showcase their commitment to sustainability while cutting unnecessary costs.
Refining and Recycling Dental Scrap
Precious metals — gold, silver, platinum and palladium — extracted from bridges, clasps, crowns, inlays, fillings and other work should never be thrown into the garbage. So-called ‘dental scrap’ can instead be sold to dental scrap refiners.
These specialists will collect dental scrap, determine the purity and worth of the precious metal content (often using advanced refinery technology), and then offer surprisingly large payouts. The turnaround can sometimes be as quick as one week. Not only does this prevent metals from entering landfill, but it also means smart dental clinics can get paid for doing the responsible thing and recycling their waste.
Note that a dental scrap refining company will not take amalgam because of the high mercury content. So, if dental clinics haven’t done so already, they should have amalgam separators installed in-house. Doing so is by far the most responsible environmental choice and is likely a legal requirement, depending on the jurisdiction.
Reusing Instead of Disposing of Tools and Accessories
Reducing water, electricity, heat, and waste is an office-wide effort. Dental clinics can take a page from any standard office sustainability policy and implement common-sense changes to patient waiting areas and private rooms alike. These include turning off electronic devices when not in use, removing screens from lobbies, switching to biodegradable or recycled paper products, going paperless as much as possible, using low-VOC paints, eco-friendly cleaners, and so much more.
The next best thing to reducing consumption is to reuse what would otherwise reach landfill. Clinics can swap out traditionally disposable dental items for reusable alternatives, such as:
- stainless steel suction tips,
- glass irrigation syringes,
- washable cloth towels, wipes, bibs and barriers,
- glass, steel, ceramic (or, failing that, biodegradable) cups used to swish and rinse,
- washable cotton lab coats, and
- wipeable plastic face shields.
Embracing Innovative Technologies
Technological advancements in the dental industry have steadily meant cost- and time-savings while reducing carbon footprints.
For example, many clinics now use digital radiography, or digital imaging, to avoid the lead-based foils and toxic solutions used in traditional film-dependent x-rays. Using steam to sterilize equipment has also become the norm, which avoids the heavy time investment of dry heat and the hazardous waste produced by unsaturated chemical vapors. Also, dry dental vacuum pumps are replacing their ‘wet’ counterparts, saving so much water in the process.
Dental clinics looking for more environmental options can choose to complete restorations such as bridges, dentures, crowns and so forth on-site (or in-house) using computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM). This saves on shipping, greenhouse gases, time, accuracy and materials, as CAD/CAM dentistry uses digital scans.
Adopting eco-friendly tech doesn’t have to be dental-specific, either. Clinics can replace older office items with greener upgrades, like Energy Star appliances, LCD screens and monitors, and LED signs and fluorescent lighting.
Bringing It Home
Dental clinics that go the extra mile for the environment can also reach likeminded customers. These new clients will appreciate having a practitioner who sees the big picture and takes accountability seriously. And if green practices are done correctly, the clinic won’t have to pass extra costs onto their new happy clientele.