How “green” is your dental clinic? If you haven’t implemented green policies at your practice yet, it’s easy and affordable to get started.
You might have heard about the far-reaching benefits of going green, although many gainsayers could argue that being both economically viable and eco-friendly is no easy feat.
In fact, the challenge to become more sustainable is still a no-win proposition for many dental professionals who think going green will cost them a fortune. After all, it might not be at the top of their to-do list to insulate their buildings or use solar PV technologies.
However, the lack of clarity in defining "green" has left dental practices misinformed about sustainable initiatives and how they can implement them.
There is a common misconception that when you take green initiatives, it will end up costing you a fortune. When the reality is actually the opposite. There are many easy-to-follow baby steps you can take towards a greener practice.
Don’t get us wrong; we know there is greater community awareness of environmental issues thanks to ADA’s efforts. For example, various policies are outlining what is expected from Australian dentists, particularly Policy Statement 6.21 - Dentistry and Sustainability.
Nevertheless, there are small steps you could take to follow the green dentistry route that maybe you are not even aware of. Many eco-friendly choices are also budget-friendly choices. Going green does not have to be a burden or an additional cost.
That’s why we want to help you make the leap towards greener dentistry and future-proof your practice by sharing some of the top ways you can make your practice more sustainable while also saving money!
Table of contents:
1. What Is Green Dentistry and Why Is It Important?
Over the last years, sustainability has moved from buzzword to necessity. Going green has gone mainstream in business - and dentistry is no different.
Therefore, going green isn’t a temporary trend like inflatable furniture or tie-dye t-shirts. If you want to prepare your dental practice for the future, you must adopt environmentally healthy practices.
To put it in layman’s terms, green dentistry (or eco-dentistry) is an approach to oral health that reduces the environmental impact and creates a safe and high-quality environment for patients.
Dentistry is first and foremost a health profession. That’s why it is imperative to understand the importance of being eco-friendly and promoting environmental and planetary health when helping patients.
On top of that, sustainable initiatives can also save your practice time and money by reducing waste and increasing efficiency.
According to the Ontario Academy of General Dentistry, “through anthropogenic global warming, human activity is causing irreversible damage to life on Earth, including rising sea levels, ocean acidification and ecosystem destruction, according to a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a body of the United Nations. With this looming threat in mind, businesses - including dental practices - can make decisions that contribute to reducing and reversing climate change.”
With that in mind, let’s see why going green is good for your dental practice:
Promote better health and wellness in the community
Influence the environmental impact of your equipment and supplies
Minimise the plastic “burden”
Reduce costs with efficient technology
Use products with safer and more sustainable chemicals
Promote environmental and health benefits for staff and patients
Provide more natural-looking teeth restorations
Improve your practice’s reputation
Increase employee satisfaction, morale, and retention
Gain a competitive edge
Attract “green” patients
To cut a long story short, going green isn’t merely a matter of preference.
The four R model of green living (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recover) is increasingly becoming a necessity for dental practices due to changing perspectives around the world.
Green dental practices can contribute to more sustainable resources and a healthier environment.
Now, let’s take a more in-depth look at some effective, easy, affordable ways for your dental practice to go green.
2. 5 Budget-Friendly Ways to Make Your Practice Greener
According to Entrepreneur, the Green Business Bureau CEO Marcos Cordero says that "Many things require simply changing behaviour that results in excessive waste. Start small, and building sustainability will pay for itself."
Going green doesn't have to be challenging or cost a lot.
Here are a few simple tips to make your dental practice more sustainable without incurring substantial costs. They are a boon both to the environment and your practice’s bottom line.
1. Go paperless
As the world becomes increasingly digital, it’s time to begin adopting eco-friendly paperless solutions.
You may continue using paper, but eventually, there will be a tipping point where practices still using sticky notes and traditional intake forms will become obsolete.
Replacing paper documents and forms with digital records and electronic communication isn't as expensive as you might think and allows you to save money in the long run.
Whether you create electronic forms, scan patient information and store it digitally, use online patient records and charts, or automate appointment scheduling, going paperless allows you to streamline workflows, reduce waste, increase efficiency, and maximise profitability.
2. Optimise inventory management
Inventory waste has a substantial environmental and financial impact. Unused, expired stock is often disposed of in the landfill or requires specialist collection.
Truth is, most dental practices are not even aware of their inefficient, environmentally unfriendly, manual inventory processes. As they strive to deliver great oral health, ordering and stock management become an afterthought.
Luckily, dental-specific ordering and stock management software can help your practice reduce waste by striking a balance between supply and demand.
Once you are able to calculate the amount of inventory necessary for future periods, you will significantly reduce the frequency of orders and shipping waste and positively impact the environment and your practice’s bottom line.
3. Get into the recycling mindset
More often than not, disposable supplies, such as gloves and masks, end up making a lot of trash.
Adopting a recycling mindset is an important way to reduce the environmental impact of landfills and incinerated waste.
While you can't reuse masks and other single-use supplies, you can safely recycle items such as aluminium cans, dental instruments, plastic, glass, tins, paper, and food waste.
Create a recycling policy and make recycling accessible for staff and patients. Introducing a recycling policy in your practice will also help you save money and pay less for waste disposal services.
4. Reduce the plastic footprint
Single-use plastic items are convenient for patient care, but plastic has an increasingly detrimental impact on the environment and health.
It’s crazy how something as cheap as plastic cups can take up to 450 years to decompose in the landﬁll.
A little bit of creativity will help you figure out ways to reduce plastic consumption in your dental practice while also saving money long-term.
Consider using glass or stainless steel pots instead of plastic dappen dishes. You can also use reusable or autoclavable stainless steel impression trays rather than plastic trays. Finally, advertise alternative, non-plastic oral hygiene products such as bamboo toothbrushes and biodegradable floss picks.
5. Minimise hazardous waste
As you know, hazardous waste such as mercury amalgam (one of the industry’s most toxic products), silver or sharps can have severe implications for the planet.
Amalgam is a durable and cost-effective material, but it contains a wide array of metals that can affect the environment.
While Australia signed the Minamata Convention designed to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury in October 2013, the convention still needs to be ratified and become legally binding.
Of course, Australian dental professionals have a legal responsibility to ensure that waste in their practices is managed correctly without harming the environment.
However, we encourage you to start using less toxic, more sustainable cleaning products and amalgam alternatives for dental restorations when possible.
Amalgam alternatives are perceived to be expensive, but they can actually help you increase profits. People have a positive attitude towards eco-friendly practices, meaning that going green by reducing hazardous waste will attract more patients to your clinic.
Conclusion: Sustainability in dentistry is more than a buzzword or a trend.
It has become of utmost importance that businesses worldwide - including dental practices - find ways to sustain a liveable planet for generations to come.
At first glance, sustainability may seem expensive. Still, there are some easy-to-implement hands-on tips (like the ones provided in this post) you can apply today to reduce the detrimental effects you have on the planet and promote environmental awareness and sustainability to patients.
Start building a green, sustainable practice that you can be proud of and positively impact the environment and the people in it!
“Greening'' your dental practice has just become easier and more affordable. Invedent is an intuitive, user-friendly, affordable ordering and stock management platform that allows you to embrace your role in the fight against climate change.
We will take you by the hand and provide you with an efficient, paperless, scalable system that helps reduce stock waste while saving your practice time and money. Start your 30-day FREE trial with Invedent now! You have nothing to lose except a chance to make a difference for your practice and the environment!