From water usage and clinical waste disposal, to staff and patient travel, the dental industry could be doing more to reduce its carbon footprint. While many practice owners may nod their heads in acknowledgement, they are just as likely to stare vacantly when asked what they are doing to reduce their energy consumption.
‘Green dentistry’ or ‘eco-friendly dentistry’ is not a new phenomenon, but it is an environmental movement that is gathering momentum. Putting a significant emphasis on innovation, it sets out to provide more sustainable dental treatments to patients by utilising modern technologies to reduce wastage and prevent pollution.
Rather than being perceived as an unnecessary regulatory and cost burden, green dentistry represents an opportunity for entrepreneurial dentists to differentiate their service offering and gain tangible efficiency benefits. In doing so, they can connect more closely with patients, particularly millennials, who rate sustainability high up their agendas and are increasingly aware of the impacts their choices have on the environment.
Greenwashing vs what is truly green?
A word of caution. Patients will easily be able to separate the wheat from the chaff when assessing which dental practices are truly adopting green measures compared to those masquerading as being environmentally conscious.
‘Greenwashing’ is when businesses erroneously claim they have changed their products and policies to be environmentally friendly in a thinly veiled attempt to gain more customers and sales.
So, if you’re thinking of slightly reducing the size of your disposable plastic cups and positioning this as a ‘green initiative’, forget it. You’ll only damage patient confidence in your business ethics and tarnish your reputation within your local community.
Encouragingly, there are genuine eco dentistry procedures and technologies which you can implement to conserve energy and reduce the risks associated with using harmful chemicals. Switching to digital x-rays rather than conventional x-rays can cut the amount of radiation exposure to a dental patient by as much as 90% and prevent the disposal of toxic dental x-ray fixer and lead foils.
Specialist machines are now able to separate mercury from amalgam fillings. It can then be recycled and reused instead of tonnes of mercury being discarded into the water system where it can be converted into a toxic substance.
You could also go one step further by adopting direct composite bonding services. By providing a metal-free way to repair cracks, fill cavities and close gaps between teeth, direct composite bonding is a more environmentally friendly alternative to amalgam fillings.
You could also reduce carbon emissions in non-treatment areas such as, purchasing a patient management system to electronically manage patient data, billing and appointment reminders, transforming efficiency in the process by eliminating paper-based administration. Or looking at the possibility of installing electric vehicle charging points in your parking area.
Even if there are limited changes you could personally make, reviewing your suppliers and the source of their products and switching to locally sourced products where possible can have a direct impact on the environment.
Can you afford to go green?
Understandably, there is the quandary of how to run a successful, profitable business whilst making the best and safest choices for patients. Undoubtedly, there is a cost to going green, but given that more consumers are evaluating businesses based on their environmental credentials, dentists should take a long-term view in order to sustain and grown their practice’s income.
With terms of up to five years, asset finance solutions from specialist lenders can give you the means to invest in new equipment and technology leaving you with a single consolidated loan repayment.
In addition, dentists who are spending time and money to develop new treatments can be eligible for R&D tax relief, a Government incentive which remains underutilised by the dental sector.
Green dentistry is evolving. Taking proactive steps now to run a more sustainable business will strike a welcome chord with your patients in a world more focused on environmental issues than ever before.
About Sarah Jarvis
Sarah Jarvis is a professional banker who has been working in healthcare for over 10 years, bringing a wealth of experience from different financial backgrounds. She started her career as a business manager in the Baker street area and became immersed in the healthcare industry as her interest in the sector bloomed. In her time as a Regional Healthcare Relationship Manager at Wesleyan Bank, Sarah has helped hundreds of dentists to buy or upgrade their dream practices. When she is not helping dentists achieve their goals, Sarah loves nothing more than walking with her husband and dogs along the beachfront.