Green dentistry: the art and science of sustainable practice

Key Points

  • Provides a comprehensive overview on 'green dentistry', by way of describing how the practice of dentistry has an impact on the environment and systematically outlining the practice measures that can be implemented at every step, to mitigate these effects.

  • Highlights the current status of sustainable dentistry in theory and practice, with particular emphasis on the steps taken by the NHS and UK government, thus far.

  • Identifies issues and the gaps which need to be addressed in the relatively new area of sustainable dental practice, in order to stimulate the initiation of concrete action by the dental fraternity, leaderships and organisations in this direction.

Abstract

Dentistry is highly energy and resource intensive with significant environmental impact. Factors inherent in the profession such as enormous electricity demands of electronic dental equipment, voluminous water requirements, environmental effects of biomaterials (before, during and after clinical use), the use of radiation and the generation of hazardous waste involving mercury, lead etc have contributed towards this. With rising temperatures across the world due to global warming, efforts are being made worldwide to mitigate the effects of environmental damage by resorting to sustainability concepts and green solutions in a myriad of ways. In such a scenario, a professional obligation and social responsibility of dentists makes it imperative to transform the practice of dentistry from a hazardous to a sustainable one, by adopting environmental-friendly measures or 'green dentistry'. The NHS in the UK has been proactive in implementing sustainability in healthcare by setting targets, developing guidance papers, initiating steering groups to develop measures and implementing actions through its Sustainable Development Unit (SDU). Such sustainable frameworks, specific to dentistry, are not yet available and even the scientific literature is devoid of studies in this field although anecdotal narratives abound. Hence this paper attempts to present a comprehensive evaluation of the existing healthcare sustainability principles, for their parallel application in the field of dentistry and lays out a blueprint for integrating the two main underlying principles of sustainability – resource use efficiency and eliminating or minimising pollution – in the day-to-day practice. The article also highlights the importance of social values, community care, engaging stakeholders, economic benefits, developing policy and providing leadership in converting the concept of green dentistry into a practised reality.

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Mulimani, P. Green dentistry: the art and science of sustainable practice. Br Dent J 222, 954–961 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.bdj.2017.546

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