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Tackling plastics in dentistry this World Environment Day

practice green, world environment day, henry schein, sustainable dentistry
09:27 / 02-06-2023


The connection between oral health and the environment is often overlooked, but it's an important one. It can be tempting to excuse the environmental impact of the dental and wider medical industry because of regulations from the CQC, and because the services being provided are so vital. In reality, it is the necessity of dentistry that makes it all the more important that we find a way to move forward sustainably. We cannot stop, so we must evolve.

World Environment Day is on the 5th of June, and the theme this year is ‘Solutions to Plastic Pollution’, and one of the most harmful aspects of dentistry on the environment is the use of single-use plastics products and packaging.

Did you know that the materials used in traditional dental products such as plastic toothbrushes and floss can take centuries to decompose? That means that every plastic toothbrush or nylon floss you have ever used or given to a patient still exists, either in a landfill or polluting our ocean.2-May-26-2023-01-42-31-2397-PM

By adopting sustainable practices in the dental industry, we can protect the environment without compromising on offering excellent oral health care. Currently, there is no way to completely eliminate single-use plastics from your dental practice. Many disposable instruments vital to your every-day practice come individually wrapped in single-use plastic for hygiene reasons, and until solutions are found, made safe and hygienic, and implemented at a national level, you have no choice but to continue using them. According to the Journal of Dentistry, there is a mean mass of 354g of single use plastic used per procedure (including set up and clean up)[1].

This unfortunate fact makes it all the more important that we work together to eliminate whatever plastic we can from dentistry, and thankfully, more and more solutions are emerging all the time.

It is possible for you to start employing sustainable products in your dental practice immediately. Bamboo toothbrushes and biodegradable silk floss are excellent products to start with, especially as you can provide or sell them to patients as well, helping to shift the sustainability habits of your patients as well as the practice.

Perhaps you can offer incentives for your patients and staff to switch to these sustainable products?1-May-26-2023-01-42-35-9048-PM

Environmentally friendly aspirator tubes, wipes, tongue cleaners, micro applicators, interdental brushes and more have already hit the market. Replace their plastic counterparts in your dental practice this World Environment Day, and help #beatplasticpollution.

See our full range of green products available on our website here!

Replacing what products you can with sustainable alternatives may feel insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but one of the most powerful things we can do is prove that there is a demand for sustainable products. If we begin purchasing eco-friendly solutions over their plastic counterparts wherever possible it will incentivise manufacturers to look for more sustainable solutions.

What about the single use plastics you can’t avoid?

It’s frustrating, you know how catastrophically damaging plastic is to the environment, but you also have to use them in your dental practice. So what can you do?

The answer to the plastics problem in the dental industry, is likely to be a circular plastic economy.

The circular plastic economy represents a shift away from the traditional linear model of ‘take-make-dispose’ and instead emphasises reducing waste, reusing materials, and recycling or repurposing plastic products. By keeping plastic materials in circulation for as long as possible, we can minimise their environmental impact and maximise their value.

How can we kickstart a circular plastics economy in dentistry?

2-May-26-2023-01-42-35-7877-PMFirst and foremost, to accelerate the adoption of the circular plastic economy in dentistry, it is crucial to engage with stakeholders. Collaborating with dental suppliers, manufacturers, and associations will allow you to advocate for sustainable practices and encourage the development of eco-friendly alternatives.

Here are some more proactive steps you can take:

  • Communicate with suppliers: Engage in dialogue with your suppliers to encourage the availability of environmentally-friendly products and packaging options. Request information on their efforts to reduce plastic waste and support sustainable manufacturing practices, shift your business away from suppliers who aren’t making an effort environmentally.
  • Join professional associations: Participate in dental associations and organisations that prioritise sustainability. By collectively advocating for a circular plastic economy, you can amplify your voice and drive industry-wide change.
  • Educate patients: As trusted oral health providers, you have the opportunity to educate your patients about the importance of reducing plastic waste. Empower them with knowledge about sustainable oral hygiene practices, such as using bamboo toothbrushes, biodegradable floss, or refillable mouthwash containers. You could even offer incentives to patients to get them using these alternatives.
  • Share best practices: Sustainability is not the time for competition; we are all in this together. Collaborate with fellow dentists and share your experiences and successes in implementing environmental initiatives. By learning from one another, we can collectively enhance our environmental impact.


[1] Martin, P.N., Mulligan, D.S., Fuzesi, D.P. and Hatton, P.P.V. (2022). “Quantification of Single Use Plastics Waste Generated in Clinical Dental Practice and Hospital Settings.” Journal of Dentistry, p.103948. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdent.2022.103948


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