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Five top tips for sustainable dentistry

10:22 / 21-04-2023


With Earth Day just around the corner, it's time for dental professionals to take a closer look at their environmental impact.

It can be easy to justify the negative environmental impact of dentistry because providing healthcare is so important. But it is vital that we protect the planet, therefore if anything, the necessity of dentistry makes it more important that we practice sustainably.

Practice green: healthy patients, healthy planet

The dental industry generates a significant amount of waste and consumes vast amounts of energy and water[1], all of which feed into a large carbon footprint. We are all becoming more environmentally conscious in our daily lives, but don’t let the environmental impact of your dental practice be forgotten, do your part by increasing sustainability wherever you can.

2-Apr-19-2023-02-00-53-2617-PMKickstart your journey to sustainable dentistry with Practice Green, a Henry Schein initiative that promotes sustainable dentistry and helps dental practices become more eco-friendly. By implementing sustainable practices, dental professionals can protect the planet while providing high-quality dental care.

Going green can seem like an impossible task, but even small changes have a big impact. Keep reading to uncover five easy to implement top tips for practicing sustainable dentistry!

Reduce waste

Dental practices generate a significant amount of waste, especially from single-use plastics like packaging materials and instruments.

1-Apr-19-2023-02-00-55-6729-PMHowever, there are many ways to reduce waste and promote sustainable dentistry. For instance, dental practices can implement a recycling program and prioritise reusable items.

Wherever safe and hygienic to do so, replace single-use items with reusable options such as cloth towels, sterilisable instruments, and durable instruments. Dental practices can also reduce waste by avoiding excessive packaging and ordering supplies only as needed.

If you’re willing to go the extra mile then examine the supply chain of the products you order, is it green? Is there a green option you can switch to? Can you feedback to suppliers that you want green options, so they know there is a demand?

Conserve energy

Dental practices consume a lot of energy, from powering equipment to lighting and heating/cooling the practice. However, there are many ways to conserve energy and promote sustainable dentistry.

For example, dental professionals can choose energy-efficient equipment and lighting, turn off equipment when not in use, and adjust thermostats to conserve heating and cooling when the office is empty.

Perhaps there are ways you can maximise space in your decontamination equipment so that fewer loads are needed.

Installing motion sensors and timers on lights will also reduce energy your consumption – a better choice for the planet, and your energy bill!

Choose eco-friendly products

Single-use plastics are unfortunately medically necessary on the grounds of hygiene in some cases. But make sure your employment of single-use plastic is limited to those incidences where it is mandatory.

Many eco-friendly dental products are available, including biodegradable dental floss, bamboo toothbrushes, and products in eco-friendly packaging materials.

If you can, use environmentally conscious cleaning products, such as those that use natural or biodegradable ingredients.

Choosing eco-friendly products promotes sustainability and can also appeal to environmentally conscious patients! Furthermore, introducing patients to eco-friendly products such as bamboo toothbrushes and biodegradable floss can help to change patient behaviours too!


Educate and involve your team

Sustainable dentistry requires the participation of the entire dental team. Educating staff and providing training on sustainable practices can help ensure that everyone is doing their part to reduce the environmental impact of the practice.

1-Apr-19-2023-02-00-43-5039-PMPerhaps you could introduce a cycle to work incentive, or organise carpools to cut down on car emissions?

Encourage your staff to come up with their own sustainability ideas and initiatives, make it a team effort to enhance participation and ensure everyone is working towards the same goal.

No one knows your team as well as you do, invite them into the conversation and develop and initiative that works for you.


Nothing will help reduce the carbon footprint of the dental industry as much as prevention. Every aspect of a patient visit has an environmental consequence.

Every patient must travel to the dental practice, have dental instruments and materials used in their treatment, and will produce waste.

Have you ever considered all the knock-on environmental effects of a patient coming in for a treatment, especially for an issue that might have been prevented?

  • Travel: A patient in need of treatment must travel to the dentist and many people will do this by car. In more serious cases, a patient may require more than one visit. Travel has been pinpointed as one of the biggest contributors to the dental industry’s carbon footprint[2].
  • Production: All the tools used in dentistry have a carbon footprint. The more we use, the larger the demand, the more that is produced. The footprint of single-use instruments is particularly high, especially when packaging and non-biodegradable waste is considered.
  • Materials: Many restorative materials are harmful to the environment. Resin composites contain microparticle pollutants that contaminate waste systems[3], and mercury waste from amalgam restorations is also harmful to the environment[4].
  • Water: As well as the water used during treatment, dental instruments must be thoroughly washed and decontaminated after use. Thus, the more instruments that are used, the more cycles your decontamination equipment will be sent on, consuming both water and electricity.

The best way to reduce the environment impact of all the above? Prevention.

Simply put: if a patient does not need treatment, they will not add to the environmental impact of any of these factors.2-Apr-19-2023-02-00-43-5044-PM

Dental and oral health problems will never be eradicated, but by educating your patients and doing whatever you can to promote healthy dental hygiene, preventable dental health issues can be minimised.

Reducing the soaring demand for preventable dental treatments will help to reduce the global impact of the sector.

In the end, healthy patients will help us achieve a healthy planet.


[1] Public Health England. Carbon Modelling Within Dentistry. London: PHE, 2018.

[2] Batsford, H., Shah, S. & Wilson, G. A changing climate and the dental profession. Br Dent J 232, 603–606 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41415-022-4202-1

[3] Mulligan S, Kakonyi G, Moharamzadeh KThornton S F, Martin N. The environmental impact of dental amalgam and resin-based composite materials. Br Dent J 2018; 224: 542-548.

[4] Minamata Convention on Mercury. Text and annexes. 2019. https://www.mercuryconvention.org/en/resources/minamata-convention-mercury-text-and-annexes

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