Green Dentist Fights to Save Smiles and the Planet

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A wave of Green is coming to dentistry. Green dentistry means dentistry with an eye on conservation of resources. Dr. Penchas, a Houston Dentist provides his patients cutting edge cosmetic dentistry with pragmatic energy conservation.

midtown dentistry

Midtown Dentistry saves smiles and the planet

In the past, dental offices were built for lower cost and higher output – not conservation.
A new generation of GREEN DENTISTS are changing that by joining treatment with conservation.

While dental materials and instruments are still lagging behind, Eco-dentists struggle to conserve.

Dr. Jonathan Penchas, A Houston cosmetic dentist explains: "Water saving is the first area of attention. Reduction in energy consumption is a second area. Using alternative energy and offsetting carbon emission are also helpful."

Water Saving

The greatest loss of water in most dental offices is the central evacuation system – i.e. “the suction”. Most dentists use a system that uses water to produce the vacuum. This can use several HUNDRED gallons per day. A water recycling device can reduce this amount to several dozen gallons. Newer vacuum systems are called dry vacuum systems. These systems do not use any water at all. They are more expensive and larger is size, but save on water.

The second water waste is the rinsing and washing of instruments prior to sterilization. Research now shows that washing dishes with a dishwasher saves large amounts of water compared to hand washing them – and this is true in a dental office. Using an instrument disinfector – a professional dishwasher, will reduce the amount of water used, but increase the power used.

Washing hands is a repetitive and important part of infection control in a dental office. With dozens of hands being washed all day – the amount of water used can be reduced with minimum care. Using automatic faucets that control the time and amount of flow helps with water savings.

Energy consumption

Dental offices can reduce energy consumption in three major ways: general energy reduction, efficient large dental equipment and process improvement.

General energy conservation includes all of the conservation efforts any office can do:

  •      Reducing the hours of lighting and air-conditioning
  •      energy efficient lighting and office equipment
  •      improved insulation.
  •      Switching to digital radiography uses less energy and produces less radiation than older x-ray machines. So apart from less radiation to patients it also means no processing chemicals and film. These are toxic chemicals dental offices pour down the drain into the environment.
  •      Using LED lighting in dental chairs, light curing units and handpieces is growing. These reduce the energy consumption chair side.

The use of renewable energy at the dental office is not economical. The need for large amperage during the daytime means that local solar and wind generation will not be sufficient. The only economical way is to buy renewable energy from a commercial supplier.

Material management

The amount of waste leaving a dental office to landfills is amazing. Most of the materials are recyclable materials – paper, and plastic. The really harmful materials are the chemicals used. Infection control disinfectants and sterilization liquids, mercury, heavy metals. These need special consideration.

Going paperless. Reducing the use of paper to a minimum. This is an important goal of the green dentist. This means a computerized office system so no paperwork exists. It also means drying instruments and hands with warm air versus paper.

Disposables. While disposables can save time, in most cases there are efficient alternatives using non-disposable systems. Using instruments and materials that use less packaging and need less repeat sterilization packaging can reduce waste. A modern cassette system will reduce the amount of packaging necessary.

Recycling. Recycling is a life style. Re-using packaging is a good first step. In a dental office, this means providing the staff and patients with the opportunity to recycle by placing recycling receptacles in all of the waste areas. The sterilization and laboratory areas are the key areas. Apart from the regular and medical waste receptacles, recycling receptacles can be placed to allow for efficient recycling.

Going organic Unlike organic food, dental organics means picking the least toxic materials for use in the office. In some countries these materials are starting to be banned altogether. Elimination of base metal, amalgam, mercury and carborundum. Elimination of glutaraldehyde containing liquids. Reduction or elimination of monomer use.

Offsetting carbon emission At this point it is clear that most dental offices cannot achieve anything close to carbon neutrality. The only way to close the “gap” at this time is by paying to offset the emissions. This can be done locally or internationally. by buying local conservation land, the dental office can contribute to the local emission control and the local environment. The downside is the cost.
Buying offsetting can now be done on a small scale that is economical even for a medium dental office.


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Dr. Jonathan penchas

Jonathan penchas
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