Climate Change and Dentistry

Dental Revelations Blog-18

The Climate Report in 2018 wasn’t much fun to read. In fact it was rather depressing and raised many worries over the future of our children and their children. We might even face a situation where many adults living today will face the consequences of polluting our Planet Earth. We’ve all seen the warning signs – natural disasters, unusual weather like long heatwaves in countries where it is normally mild weather, extreme dryness causing crops to die just to name few.

Despite the fact that the report was worrying and depressing, I hope that all of you have read it. Hiding your head in the sand will not make it go away or change the fact that it is going to affect you as well.

We should all participate in saving the Planet Earth. Participating in saving ourselves and our children. That can be done by thinking what changes you can do in your everyday life to help in this cause. There are plenty of choices we make every day that can make a difference to the world’s future.

You can choose a product in the food store that use minimum amount of packing. For example choose muesli which has simple paper bag packaging and which is locally produced (or in your home country). Choose fruits and vegetables that have simple packaging or no packaging at all (there are re-usable fruit bags available).

Choose local fruits and vegetables or the ones that are not shipped from the other side of the world.

Reduce the amount of red meat in your diet or become a vegetarian (I’m not vegetarian but I have almost stopped eating red meat) ‘cos plant-based diet it is far more environmentally friendly than meat-based diet. Think about how large area of fields are needed to herd livestock and to grow food for them when these areas could be used for growing plant based food for humans or for growing trees that help the Planet to get rid of the carbon dioxide – it is a gas that is the largest contributor to the climate change.

Also, once you’ve done your environmentally friendly food shopping, do not use plastic bags to pack your stuff. Instead take a re-usable bags with you when you go food shopping. And why not use them the with all your shopping? Do we really need to tell everyone that we’ve been shopping at Harrods or Louis Vuitton? When the climate change reaches the point that our lives are at risk, these status symbols have very little meaning. So have one re-usable bag always tucked inside your LV hand bag, car, rucksack or pocket.

There are plenty of things we can do differently as long as we think we can make a difference. If everyone would think that it makes no difference if you buy these passion fruits that are shipped from the other side of the world or that it makes no difference if you recycle or not, we are doomed.

Together we can make a difference and you can change the way you do things in every aspects of your life, including your professional life. Personally speaking, I have noticed that I feel more and more guilty over the fact that dentistry is so very environmentally unfriendly.

Single-use materials

We produce massive amounts of waste every day. We have many disposable materials that we throw away after each patient. Many of the disposable materials are made of plastic. There’s no way going around it as disposable, single-use materials are the best option when it comes to cross infection control.

Water

Also, have you ever thought about how much water we use everyday? We wash our hands many times a day. Our rotary instruments require water, our instrument maintenance cycle requires water, our aspiration system loooves water (this is how one maintenance guy for the dental units expressed it) so we suck water into it in the morning, between every patient and in the evening. Well, at least this is how it should be done to prevent the backflow.

Backflow means bacteria and viruses travel towards the patient inside the suction tube. When patients close their mouth and form a seal around the tip of the saliva ejector, a partial vacuum occurs. Blood, viruses, saliva, bacteria, debris might travel as far as into the patient’s mouth. If you don’t believe me, read this. This of course means the patients should not close their mouths around the suction.

I have tried to change my way of using water by closing the tap (with my elbow) while I rub my hands together with soap – you know this should last 15 seconds for the soap to kill e.g. norovirus that is causing Winter Vomiting Disease. In that 15 seconds lots of water is wasted if you keep the tap on. The surgery should have taps that are easily operated without using fingers – the tap should be long enough (medical tap) for you to be able also open it with you elbow. There are also sensor-operated taps that will stop the water flow when hands are moved away from the tap.

Chemicals

We use many different chemicals that are bad for the environment. There’s no way going around this one either. Unless the manufacturers are trying to develop chemicals for disinfection that are more environmentally friendly.

Oral Hygiene Recommendations

On top of everything else we recommend to our patients products that are made of plastic. That’s why the wooden triangle-shaped tooth pick has become a product I recommend more and more (I have written about it in one of my previous posts). Of course it’s not suitable for all the patients, but for those that it is, it will make a difference in the amount of plastic waste.

Conclusion

There are not many things we can change in practising dentistry. But even the smallest changes matter. So please everyone, think about what change you can make and challenge your colleagues and friends to participate in saving the Planet.

Lets make it a norm rather than an exception to re-cycle and to live sustainable life.

Lets do it for our children.

Dental Revelations Blog-17

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Waste Not Want Not

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Is there something in dentistry that could be recycled?

I have had this great idea for ages and I just realised this blog would be just perfect channel to get it out in the open.

I am into recycling and saving our planet in my personal life and because of this it is sometimes hard to work in a profession that produces lots of waste every day. Waste that we do not sort in any way (well clinical waste and domestic waste in UK but that’s not really sorting in the matter of recycling). 

It has forced me to think that could dentistry be more sustainable? 

Don’t be alarmed. I’m not going to suggest that we start to wash our gloves and saliva ejectors.

Expensive Business

Materials and equipment are very expensive in dentistry. Sometimes we order equipment that for one reason or another lays in the storage shelf nearly unused.

Sometimes we use only half a pack of costly composite filling material before we order a new one – the one that just came out in the market and is supposed to be better than the previous ones. The old half-a-pack composite filling material stays in the shelf until it is out of date and is thrown away eventually.

That is just one example. Let me tell you another one. Somebody in my current workplace thought it would be a good idea to buy the EMS Air-Flow S1 for soda whitening. Then she changed jobs and the brand new Air-Flow was forgotten. The two hygienists and four dentists in the practice did not think there was any benefit of using the Air-Flow. Money wasted.

One more. The root canal files. Our practice has so many unused packages of root canal files that no-one uses. Perhaps because of the Wave-One that is easier and more user-friendly than traditional files. But I’m sure there is somebody that still uses these traditional files? 

THE Grand Idea

Could these unwanted materials and equipments be sold second-hand to the practises who need them? The price would be lower of course than when buying new ones.

I think they could. It would need a website for sure. Some kind of dental online flea-market. And if it was global it would be even better. But then again it’s not about saving our planet because of the carbon footprint. So let’s do it locally so that we will maintain our humble idea of recycling (but I still want my share of the advertisement income the website will have because of its popularity).