With global warming a world priority, we have been working hard to build our practice into a sustainable healthcare setting. The UK Climate Change Act 2008 impacts on the whole of the UK, setting out a challenge to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.
Dentistry is facing many challenges to help tackle the problem, particularly around decontamination, waste disposal and the use of single-use plastics. Research shows an average of 21 single-use plastic waste items are used for every dental procedure, with an increase in PPE and clinical waste as a result of the pandemic.
|Breakdown of the annual carbon footprint of dental services (England)
As healthcare providers we have a responsibility as always to focus on the delivery and maintenance of good oral health to our patients. All our team members understand why change is necessary, and are responsible for their individual roles in our sustainability journey. We are aiming to reduce our carbon footprint in the following areas:
- We have always worked hard to reducing the need for patients to travel through practicing ‘preventative dentistry’. It is in our interests to ensure our patients remain dentally fit, treating dental conditions promptly when they arise, and not allowing the conditions to worsen which often leads to more complicated dentistry with multiple appointments.
- We encourage of staff to use more sustainable methods for travel to work such as walking, cycling and car sharing. We also consider transportation of goods and laboratory items to and from the practice by ordering materials in bulk, less frequently. We use digital scanners for as much laboratory work as possible to reduce the need for transporting impressions.
- Patient journeys can be reduced by booking family appointments together and joint appointments such as your routine examinations with a hygienist visit or crowns- in-a-day, where possible. We encourage our patients to book in advance for this reason.
- We have switched from single use instruments where appropriate, to ones that can be sterilised and reduce waste.
- When single use items are required we have switched to products and services with a lower carbon footprint where possible; such as materials made from renewable materials.
- We use social media, emails and our website to communicate with our patients, reducing the amount of paper that is sent out of the practice.
- We manage our stock efficiently with accurate ordering, less frequently. Stock is audited on a regular basis to ensure stock is rotated correctly and reduce waste.
- We use digital technology such as our CEREC scanner and miller unit which reduce the need for impression materials which add to our clinical waste. Our digital x-rays also do not require harsh chemicals such as fixer and developer which are difficult to dispose of.
- We have reduced our paper use with the use of digital communications with patients such as our Patient Portal where you can complete your medical history and forms online. We have clinipads in surgeries and information can then be emailed directly to our patients rather than printing out information sheets.
- We spend time disassembling and segregating packaging increasing the amount of recycling we produce compared with our landfill waste.
- We buy durable equipment from well-known premium brands which last longer. We also liaise with local manufactures to reduce transportation.
- As well as environmental factors, we also take into account our social and ethical responsibilities. It is an upsetting fact that a significant amount of healthcare equipment is produced under modern slavery conditions in developing countries. We are very careful and conscientious about the suppliers we use.
- Our practice building is emergency efficient with insulation and double glazing.
- We check the energy rating of equipment before purchase to ensure we use the most energy efficient equipment.
- We use a green electricity supply.
Reducing mercury pollution from dentistry is one strand of DEFRA’s 25-year environment plan, and we continue to reduce our use of dental amalgam, allowing for the best interest of patients.
Preventing dental disease and performing high quality dental work and interventions that are long lasting reduce the need for any dental restorations, is key to this and at the forefront of our business statement of purpose.