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Posted by: Dental Design 8th February 2024
The importance of integrating sustainability into daily dental practice
From LED lighting and the advent of the paperless dental practice to being an amalgam-free zone, dentists up and down the country are seeking new and better ways to improve their sustainability credentials.[i] It’s not just a case of swapping your plastic water cups for paper ones these days, although this remains a good place to start.
Many others have installed a reverse osmosis machine to reduce their energy needs, in respect of generating suitable contaminant-free water for autoclaves and dental unit water lines (DUWLs).i
Becoming a sustainable practice can be a daunting prospect. After all, it touches every aspect of the set-up – from the car you drive to the surgery, to the energy provider you choose and the materials you use. For example, take composite resins, these can have environmental impacts during production and disposal. Using sustainable and biodegradable materials whenever possible can help minimise these impacts.
Dental professionals can also try to avoid single-use devices where appropriate – by using stainless steel impression trays, prophy cups and suction tips.[ii] You can get eco-friendly prophylaxis instruments that are combined with exchangeable tips. This reduces waste, lowers costs and conserves resources because only dull working ends are discarded instead of the entire instrument.
What a waste
Waste generation is a key sustainability issue. Dental practices produce huge amounts of waste including single-use items such as disposable syringes, masks and gloves, as well as disposable materials from dental procedures. Appropriate waste management and recycling programmes can help mitigate the issue.
Indeed, in March 2023 the NHS clinical waste strategy[iii] set out NHS England’s ambition to transform the management of clinical waste by eliminating unnecessary waste, finding innovative ways to reuse, and ensure waste is processed in the most cost-effective, efficient, and sustainable way. One of its key aims is to improve waste segregation and compliance by aiming for a 20-20-60 waste split – 20% incineration waste, 20% infectious and 60% offensive waste.
When it comes to instruments, reusable hand instruments have always been essential within the dental practice. They are cost-effective and excellent for infection prevention when cleaned, disinfected and sterilised to the rigorous guidance of HTM01-05/SDCEP.[iv] Disposable products may seem inexpensive upfront but the repeated cost of purchasing the product, the volatility of the price when demand is high, and the inevitable environmental impact of extra waste can make disposables more expensive in the long run.
The best way to sterilise dental instruments is through steam sterilisation. It is highly effective in killing bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms, ensuring instruments are safe for reuse.[v] It is also a method widely accepted and recommended by regulatory bodies worldwide including the World Health Organization.[vi] So, peace of mind for both dental professionals and patients!
If you’re worried about the amount of water it uses, don’t be. Steam sterilisation uses minimal water compared to cleaning methods like chemical disinfection.[vii] Another sustainable benefit is that it eliminates the need for harsh chemicals, reducing the risk of harmful residues or toxins.
Investing in the right instrument decontamination equipment can help improve your processes and reduce your carbon footprint. Eschmann offers a range of highly reliable and long-lasting solutions to choose from. The Little Sister SES 3000B autoclave, offers both ‘B’ and ‘N’ type cycles, as well as rapid drying to minimise cycle times. With its 17-litre capacity, that can hold five full-size instrument trays so more items can be processed at a time, helping to cut down the amount of water and electricity used. It is also available with the comprehensive Care & Cover servicing and maintenance package, which keeps equipment running efficiently for longer. This means your autoclave can last for many years, helping to send less waste to landfill.
Sustainable dentistry is all about delivering high-quality care without damaging the environment. It’s not an easy ask but small steps can often lead to big changes. The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare has developed a practical resource for dental teams wishing to take action to make their practice more sustainable. You can access it at sustainablehealthcare.org.uk/dental-guide.
For more information on the highly effective and affordable range of infection control products from Eschmann, please visit www.eschmann.co.uk or call 01903 875787
[i] How sustainable is your dental workplace? Br Dent J. 2022;233(4):248–50. doi: 10.1038/s41415-022-4935-x. Epub 2022 Aug 26. PMCID: PMC9412774. [Accessed October 2023]
[ii] Centre for Sustainable Healthcare https://sustainablehealthcare.org.uk/dental-guide/equipment
[iii] NHS England https://www.england.nhs.uk/estates/nhs-clinical-waste-strategy/
[iv] NHS England https://www.england.nhs.uk/publication/decontamination-in-primary-care-dental-practices-htm-01-05/
[v] Panta G, Richardson AK, Shaw IC, Chambers S, Coope PA. Effectiveness of steam sterilization of reusable medical devices in primary and secondary care public hospitals in Nepal and factors associated with ineffective sterilization: A nation-wide cross-sectional study. PLoS One. 2019 Nov 21;14(11):e0225595. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0225595. PMID: 31751421; PMCID: PMC6874085. [Accessed November 2023]
[vi] World Health Organization https://www.who.int/publications/m/item/trs1044-annex2
[vii] McGain F, Moore G, Black J. Steam sterilisation’s energy and water footprint. Aust Health Rev. 2017 Mar;41(1):26-32. doi: 10.1071/AH15142. PMID: 27075773. [Accessed November 2023]
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