Eco-Dentists Aim to Clean and Green

With 500 members in 42 states and 11 countries, the Eco-Dentistry Association has launched a certification program for green dental practices and named its two inaugural recipients.

Pure Dental
in Dallas, Texas, (one of its patient suites is pictured left) and ORA Dental Studio in Chicago were both certified at the gold level, the highest of the three-tiered rating system. said EDA Director Susan Beck. The other certification levels are bronze and silver.
 
The organization's GreenDOC Dental Office Certification Program is based on a checklist of standards in eight categories:

  • Sustainable Location, which pertains to the building housing the dental practice. Considerations include whether the site is a certified green building and its proximity to public transportation.
  • Waste Reduction in all activities associated with a dental practice from business operations to dental materials and processes.
  • Pollution Prevention, which includes consideration of indoor air quality, sterilization methods, green cleaning and disinfecting of surface and equipment lines as well as front and back office practices.
  • Energy Conservation in office and operatory-room lighting, equipment, HVAC and amenities.
  • Water Conservation in dental processes, fixtures throughout the dental practice and outdoors if the office include external property and landscaping.
  • Patient Care, Workplace Policies and Community Collaboration. The latter includes participating in public education and public service projects related to green dentistry, as well as general efforts to enhance the community in which the practice is located.
  • Leadership
  • Innovation

{related_content}Five of the eight categories -- all but sustainable location, leadership and innovation -- contain practices and initiatives that are required to be considered for certification. They include following the association's best practice for sterilization, installing an amalgam separator to prevent the mercury-containing alloy used in fillings from going down the drain, use of digital imaging and patient charting, green cleaning and determining energy and water usage, among other measures.

Dental practices can seek certification at higher levels by exceeding the basic requirements. The two that achieved gold ratings are "state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line dental practices," said Beck.

The ORA Dental Studio in Chicago, the first green group practice and green oral surgery practice in the U.S., is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council and used standards set by the USGBC and the Green Guide for Health Care in establishing its business in 2008. A member of the Eco-Dentistry Association, the practice also is an Energy Star partner and contributes to reforestation, energy efficiency and renewable energy programs to offset its carbon footprint.

Pure Dental has energy efficient water, lighting, heating and cooling systems, low-radiation, chemical free x-rays and metal-free orthodontics among other environmentally friendly services and features at its practice in Dallas. In addition to eco-friendly furnishings and decor throughout the office, the practice provides free Wi-Fi, a Mac computer bar, a beverage bar with organic coffee, tea and juice, fresh fruit and an outdoor patio.

Such amenities, however, and posh digs aren't required for certification.

"The beauty of green dentistry is that the office can express the personality (of the practitioners)," Beck said. "There's no requirement to be super fancy."  The organization's program includes product and services guide, action plans and worksheets to help dental practices work toward certification. The group also offers guidance to members as they transition their businesses to green practices, she said.

The Eco-Dentistry Association was founded in 2008 as a resource and clearinghouse for green dentistry best practices by Berkeley dentist Fred Pockrass and attorney and eco-entrepreneur Ina Pockrass. Practices the husband-and-wife team pioneered in their business, Transcendentist, have guided the association's standards and its vision for environmentally responsible dental practices, said Beck.

Established in 2003, Transcendentist lays claim to being the first eco-friendy dental office in the country. The business has been recognized by the Bay Area Green Business Program, which used Transcendentist's practices as a model for that program's green dental office criteria. The environmental group Acterra has also recognized Transcendentist's work and in 2008 awarded the business for its efforts in pollution prevention and resource conservation.