Dentistry and the Environment

Recently dentistry has taken on a new role in our annual lives by adding an adjective to its process: comfort. No more stiff chairs, old copies of Highlights magazine, and outdated art on the walls like my childhood dentist; these days offices have waiting room chairs so nice you want to get there early to take a nap, iPods to listen to during your visit to help drown out the ugly sounds of the tools, and the newest copies of all the hip magazines and newspapers. What is next for dentists to adopt? Eco-friendly office environments, procedures, and equipment…also called “Eco-dentistry,” a practice that is quickly gaining popularity as more people would frequent the dentist when necessary if it were safer for their bodies and easier on the Earth.

GreenDOC Categories of An Eco-Friendly Dental Practice:

Beyond a recycling program or locating in a green-certified building, there are lots of alternatives for dentists to make greener choices.

The GreenDOCTM Checklist outlines required standards and recommended initiatives within eight categories of eco-friendly practice.

Sustainable Location

Waste Reduction

Pollution Prevention

Energy Conservation

Water Conservation

Patient Care, Workplace Policies & Community Contribution



In June of 2010, the Eco-Dentistry Association launched internationally. There are dentists residing in 20 U.S. states, as well as some in Canada, who have joined the association in order to help offices around the world become better suited for the environment and there is no doubt in the industry that these numbers will continue to grow as this new wave of dentistry takes shape.

Dr. Fred Pockrass and his wife Ina started the Eco-Dentistry Association in order to recruit more professionals to this new branch of the trade after they started the first eco-friendly dental practice in the United States. The Association states in its opening press release a few statistics about the amount of waste that many dental practices accrue. The numbers are  jaw-dropping: “…680 million disposable chair barriers, light handle covers and patient bibs, and 1.7 billion instrument sterilization bags end up in landfills yearly….If every U.S. dental office installed a device capturing mercury-containing waste, at least 7,400 pounds of toxic waste would be kept out of the nation’s water supplies each year.”

The Association explains that cutting down on waste would help tremendously. One of the main concerns in dentists’ offices is contamination and infection which means keeping tools, patients, and the professionals safe and clean. By helping dentists around the globe go “green,” businesses can avoid infection by using non-toxic methods of disinfecting tools and machinery as well as switching to reusable materials around the office which can help boost efficiency in the workplace.

In an attempt to reduce the carbon footprint, eco-dentists are opening and redesigning offices all around the country, incorporating ideas on how to reduce, reuse, and recycle while keeping the medical process running smoothly, all the while creating peace of mind for patients.

These ideas include: Recycled paper materials used in the reception area as well as decoration in the waiting room such as wallpaper, natural fiber-based fabrics for the carpet and rugs and chairs, environmentally safe non-toxic cleaners, recycled wood furniture, chemical-free sterilization techniques, a safe mercury-disposal system, the use of forms and databases as well as billing and payment through online forums to reduce paper, reusable instrument carriers, and washable patient bibs and disinfectant cloths, among others.

Perhaps the best new form of technology making headlines in the industry is digital imaging. By taking tooth and gum images using digital X-rays and digital photography instead of film X-rays you can eliminate up to 90 percent of the radiation being sent out into the universe.

Although most of us never really want to go to the dentist except to listen to the great selections on the iPods, maybe the next time your teeth are due for the annual cleaning you can keep your eyes out for the new and improved practice used on old but standard procedures. Help keep your teeth, keep your health intact, and clean up your community through eco-friendly dentistry.