By Anna Sachse
That pretty much makes you “Green” lite, which is certainly better than nothing. But for those of you who are ready to get seriously hardcore about your eco-activism, I have an awesome option for you: green teeth.
You could also call it Eco-Dentistry. The capital letters in this title are on purpose because I am referring to the actual Eco-Dentistry movement as defined by the international Eco-Dentistry Association (EDA) (www.ecodentistry.org). The EDA was started in 2008 by forward-thinking dentist Fred Pockrass, D.D.S., and his wife Ina in order to provide more dental professionals with the tools and support needed to integrate green practices efficiently and effectively, and to inspire the public to make better choices both for their own health, and for the health of the planet. Based in Berkeley (surprise), Dr. Pockrass and his wife had originally co-founded Transcendentist, Inc. (www.transcendentist.com), a dental office reminiscent of a yoga studio or spa, and now the leading company offering eco-friendly dental products and services.
In order to be EDA-Certified, association members must meet the highest standards of eco-friendly practices in three areas: 1) dental materials and processes; 2) office administration and marketing; and 3) office construction and furnishings.
Why does it matter? Consider these motivating stats from the EDA: 680 million disposable chair barriers, light handle covers and patient bibs, and 1.7 billion instrument sterilization pouches end up in landfills yearly—replace them with reusable instrument carriers and washable patient bibs and disinfectant cloths. (According to a recent study published in the Journal of the Canadian Dental Association, the use of steam sterilization with cloth instrument wraps in a single-dentist, single-hygienist office can divert 4,680 paper and plastic autoclave bags from the landfill annually.) If every dentist installed a mercury waste amalgam separator, we would divert 3.7 tons of mercury-containing waste each year. By converting to digital X-rays, a typical office can prevent the disposal of at least 200 liters of toxic X-ray fixer and 17,200 lead foils in just five years. Installing energy-efficient fluorescent lighting saves 2,645 kilowatts of electrical energy and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 1,375 pounds per year in the average dental office.
And then, of course, there are the myriad benefits of taking typical “green” steps like using computerized files, forms and billing and payment to reduce paper, using recycled or natural fiber-based materials for décor such as wallpaper or the fabrics for carpet, rugs and chairs, and sticking with non-toxic cleaners and chemical-free sterilization techniques.
It makes sense that maintaining our individual health shouldn’t negatively affect the health of the planet as a whole (i.e. who needs gleaming white chompers if there is no food to eat because the earth and water supplies are too contaminated?.
The next time you need a cleaning or a cavity filled, search the EDA website for an EDA member near you. Or, if you have a dentist you already love, consider suggesting that they join the eco-movement. You can click on the “Green My Dentist” link on the EDA website to get list of helpful questions to ask your dentist, as well as a form letter/email to get you started. Your dentist might be interested to know that he or she could save approximately $50,000 a year by going green.
You can also do your own part by using eco-friendly dental products at-home. Look for products from Tom’s of Maine (found everywhere, even drugstores), Spirit Bear (found online at www.eco-natural.com), Preserve (including toothbrushes made from 100-percent recycled yogurt cups; www.preserveproducts.com) or ask for suggestions at your local Whole Foods or natural food store.