I just got back from my semi-annual dental cleaning and I am very excited by the sustainable changes I have noticed at my dentist in recent couple years.
Do you remember when you sat in the chair that had the constantly running water for the spit bowl (aka spittoon or cuspidor) and the pressure sensitive cup filler? As a little kid, I was fascinated by how the cup filled automatically when I put it back without overflowing. The water swirling around the porcelain spittoon and going down the drain was mesmerizing, but really, really wasteful. This was the 1980’s and water and energy conservation were very low priorities. Things have really changed and for the better.
The first change I noticed was about two years ago when my dental office moved from the X-ray films to digital X-rays. Not only, did I not need to fit those really uncomfortable white film packets into the back of my mouth, but they also no longer needed all the photo processing chemicals and the disposed of X-rays film. Now, my dental hygienist puts a much smaller reusable receiver in my mouth and the x-rays are available instantaneously on the computer.
I don’t remember when the big chairs with spittoons went away, but it has been at least 15 years since I’ve seen one. Now my dentist uses a small little sprayer to irrigate my teeth and gums and a suction tube instead of the cup and spittoo. The water flow rate in the spittoon was pretty significant at 1 gpm, which works out to about 500 gallons per day of water consumed. Another efficiency gained from the switch, which I hadn’t considered until researching this article, was the reduction in the amount of time spent by patients trying to rinse and spit. Some estimates are up to 20 minutes per patient can be saved not to mention not having to clean up from missed attempts.
The third major improvement at my dentist’s chair is the addition of a new LED light which has a proximity on/off switch so it is easy for the dentist to turn it on when needed and off when done. Also, because the LED light is so directional, the light beam can be bright in my mouth, but not in my eyes.
While I don’t relish going to the dentist, I no longer cringe the way I used to at all of the wasteful things involved in keeping my teeth healthy. I understand that frequently there is a lot of waste in medical facilities because of the need to keep things extra sanitary, so it is good to see these improvements at the dentist.
If you want to switch dentist, I know that there are”Green Dentist Certifications” that you can look for. However, I have not looked into them as I am very happy with my dentist and hygienist.