3 Ways The Dental Industry is Fighting PPE Pollution

3 Ways The Dental Industry is Fighting PPE Pollution

The dental industry knows a thing or two about environmental pollution and waste. Using x-ray packets containing lead to blood-soaked gauzes that end up in landfills, plus the use of needles, scalpels, and blades often disposed of improperly, hazardous dental waste has become an environmental issue. Still, the dental industry is reducing its carbon footprint and saving the planet. From utilizing non-hazardous material, showcasing proper dental disposal guidelines, and working with an environmental organization to fight against waste.

 Now, with COVID and the increase in PPE use, there’s a new environmental crisis finding its way to an already difficult circumstance.  Protective gear such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer bottles, and other coronavirus wastes pollute the water. So it’s no surprise that the dental industry would lead the fight against this new environmental crisis.  

 Check out 3 ways the dental industry is fighting waste and PPE pollution and learning from them.

Using Non-Plastic Equipment

Due to their proximity to patients, i.e., mouth, dental workers are at a high risk of COVID infection. The use of drills, scalers, their proximity to bodily fluid increases their exposure to the virus. They are considering their potential risk, and increase need for PPE. The increase in PPE also means increasing the production of plastic. About 25% of the waste in landfills is generated from healthcare facilities. With an increase in COVID cases, dental staffers use more plastic barriers to protect patients and prevent transmission. To reduce pollution and single-use disposable PPE, many offices are turning to non-plastic solutions. In the UK, companies are manufacturing nonplastic visors and face shields for healthcare workers. Dental and plastic-based organizations provide reusable visors and shields to dental staff because they reduce the spread of COVID by inhalation and droplets and reduce plastic waste.

Other Ways to Reduce Dental Waste

  • Educate patients on disposable or single-use PPE i.e latex gloves and mask, plus using face shields in public spaces
  • Distributing bamboo toothbrushes, compostable interdental aids, and floss
  • Using plastic-free toilet rolls

Note: Tips on how to properly reuse single-use disposable PPE

Using Digital Imagery

Dental radiographs are essential for preventing waste and conserving information.  Dental practices can help the environment by using digital patient charts, allowing patients to keep up to date with their records, and reduces radiation caused by imaging. It also saves a practice more than US$8,500 a year. Switching to digital or going paperless saves time, money, and the environment.

Implementing Recycle Practices

For healthcare workers in the dental industry, waste disposal is a part of their responsibility. It ensures the safety and health of staff and patients. Implementing recycling practices, especially during this pandemic, ensures the safety of patients and the community.  Many dental offices implement recycling practices and procedures. Practices send their dental instruments to recycling organizations like ProDent’s,  Instruments for Change program to be refurbished for clinics in need. Sending reusable PPE or refurbished equipment to clinics and communities with limited supplies helps others and prevents waste. Dental practices also have litter-free policies, including cloth sterilization wraps and reusable cloth patient bibs and barriers. 

More Dental Recyclable Solutions

  • Using recyclable or biodegradable packaging for toothbrushes and toothpaste caps, non-autoclavable items 
  • Educating community members on waste safety, littering, and properly disposing or recycling single-use and reusable PPE
  • Using paperless  methods to record patient information
  • Compostable bags: Using biodegradable and environmentally friendly bags to dispose of dental waste

Although waste pollution is not new to the dental industry, fighting a new environmental crisis during a pandemic is. The dental industry continues to keep patients, staff, and the community safe by researching and implementing preventative measures into their practice.  Are you in the dental industry? What are some ways your practice is fighting PPE waste and pollution?

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About the author

Joycelyn Ghansah

Joycelyn Ghansah is a former Healthcare Organizer with a background public health, include reproductive and sexual health. When she's not freelance writing, she's transcribing interviews and researching ways to strengthen healthcare labor laws.

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