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Reducing the environmental impact of dental care

There are a range of relevant sources of information and advice regarding sustainability relevant to dental settings. (see Sources of Information)

The Sustainable Dentistry: How-to Guide for dental practices [1] and  NUS Green Impact toolkit [2] provide practical information and advice, making recommendations for sustainability. The list of suggestions below is based on these two sources. Some of these suggestions may have wider benefits including costs savings, convenience and increased well being. You team may also be able to identify others that are unique to your practice building, location, service delivery, team, and suppliers.

Some sustainability suggestions may already be in place in your practice or can be achieved easily. Others will require greater consideration of the feasibility and the practicalities of implementing them in your setting.

  • Travel
    • Encourage team and patients to use public transport or active travel e.g. walking/bicycles
    • Provide bicycle racks for team and patients
    • Consider car sharing for staff
    • Inform patients of nearby electric charging points for vehicles, where available
    • Offer appointments that align with public transport timetables whenever possible
    • Offer joint appointments for patient families/groups to reduce number of trips
    • Minimise unnecessary/wasted patient appointments e.g. confirm lab work has been returned to the practice prior to the patient’s appointment, digital/remote consultations
    • Aim to reduce the number of laboratory collections and deliveries, Consider using postal services where possible.
  • Procurement
    • Consider co-operative buying schemes e.g. DenPro
    • Procure supplies and materials that enable you to carry out high quality patient care, and use appropriately
    • Investigate biodegradable products from suppliers
    • Procure recycled products e.g. printer paper, printer cartridges, toilet paper, hand towels
    • Introduce a rotational stock system
    • Commit to purchasing sustainable products e.g. Fairtrade Tea and Coffee
  • Energy
    • Adopt energy efficient technologies e.g., installation of low energy light bulbs, use of sensor lights
    • Switch to green energy suppliers, where practicable
    • Switch off lights, radio etc, when surgeries/LDU are not in use.
    • Do not leave appliances on stand-by if possible
    • Shut down computer monitors and workstations at the end of the day. (Ensure servers and network backup computers are not shut down)
    • Run dishwasher (if available) with a full load
    • Avoid washing dirty dishes etc. under running water
    • Fill kettle only as much as is required to boil
    • Run washer/disinfectors and sterlizers with full loads whenever possible
  • Waste (including water conservation)
    • Introduce recycling bins for non-confidential paper waste, plastics waste and food waste
    • Reduce paper usage by using email or texts to share appointment reminders, treatment plans, receipts, patient information leaflets, etc. Consider use of QR codes to share information such as patient information leaflets. When printing is necessary, print doubled sided
    • Encourage patients to recycle consumables such as toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes
    • Label dual flushing toilets so users know which is half flush
    • Ensure that each single use item is required for the appointment e.g. only provide patient rinse cup when needed or requested
    • Wear the appropriate PPE for each task
    • Reduce chemical waste e.g., introduce digital radiography
    • Review surgery waste stream segregation polices to ensure appropriate disposal of items. e.g. placing non contaminated items trade waste rather than healthcare waste, to reduce the amount of waste incinerated
  • Health and Wellbeing
    • Promote disease prevention and good health as being co-beneficial for the individual and the environment e.g. provide diet and oral hygiene advice.
    • Encourage patients in sustainability actions e.g. sustainable oral hygiene products, recyclable products, spit don’t rinse message, turn off water while brushing, reduced number of appointments, public transport and active travel options
    • Offer smoking cessation advice, signposting and support for team and patients for increased oral and overall health
    • Encourage team to bring healthy meals and snacks
    • Place plants in non-clinical areas
  • Team engagement and development
    • Incorporate sustainable aspects of practice into team inductions
    • Lead by example and develop best practice
    • Stay up to date with new sustainability developments
    • Attend online CPD when possible

Sources of Information

  1. Sustainable Dentistry: How-to Guide for Dental Practices (2018) Centre for Sustainable Healthcare
  2. Green Impact in Dentistry (2019) National Union of Students