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Inside Dental Assisting
Sept/Oct 2011
Volume 7, Issue 5

Healthy Planet, Healthy Practice

EDA empowers assistants to make an eco-friendly change in their office

The Eco-Dentistry Association (EDA) asks all of its new members take a pledge, committing themselves and their practice not only to outstanding patient care but to planetary care as well. Looking to shepherd the dental industry into a green future, the EDA provides education and resources to interested practices in how to become eco-friendly, eliminating threats both to the environment and to the clinicians’ health with green, reusable, and non-toxic materials. The EDA takes a three-tiered approach to their mission, focusing on green dentistry education, standards, and connecting eco-friendly practices to information— and each other.

Susan Beck, director of the EDA, recognizes the importance of dental assistants when a practice is going through the process of going green and working with the EDA. “Assistants can be a leader for change within a practice,” says Beck. “Sometimes assistants don’t realize the influence they have, and the positive impact they can make for both their practice and the environment.”

The EDA takes into consideration all aspects of a practice when helping it go green. Finding a sustainable location, reducing waste, preventing pollution, and conserving energy and water are all actions a practice can take to be more eco-friendly. By encouraging the use of eco-friendly products, the EDA is making practitioners aware of green alternatives to commonly used cleaners and chemicals. In addition, the EDA found that an effective way to implement green products into a dental office is by appealing to the assistants.

“Whenever we ask a dentist about the products they use, they always say that they have to talk to their assistant first,” says Beck. “They really want their assistant’s blessing when choosing the product.” Surveys have concluded that in at least two thirds of dental practices, assistants are responsible for ordering supplies, and two thirds of assistants ordering supplies determine product choices.

Ina Pockrass, co-founder of the EDA, points out that green initiatives are not only important for the environment, but also for the well-being of dental professionals, as many of the cleaning products used in dental offices can be sensitizing with repeated exposure. “We really want dental assistants, and all dental professionals, to be trained to embrace new, green technology and what we call a ‘wellness-based model’ when practicing dentistry,” says Pockrass, who is concerned with the amount of time that assistants spend around potentially hazardous materials.

Dental offices that modify their practices even in small ways can make a significant difference in being more eco-friendly and protecting the health of the people who work there. Switching to digital X-rays can save dental assistants hours of exposure to photo-processing chemicals. “A practice that has completed the gold level process through the EDA can create an environment where dental assistants can have a green career. It’s very different from days where some assistants spent hours in unventilated closets developing X-rays. Additionally, the assistant can spend the time saved chairside, caring for patients,” says Pockrass.

These are all small steps in the EDA’s larger mission to assist dental offices in becoming environmentally friendly practices. The GreenDOC™ Program “provides a road map for implementing eco-friendly initiatives,” and helps practices make greener choices.

The EDA also aspires to create a community where green dental practices can connect to share information and ideas. Pockrass is particularly enthusiastic about the organization’s new website. “We launched in February, it’s like the Facebook of green dentistry. Not only are professionals able to interact with each other, but it also provides an opportunity for environmentally conscious patients to find a green dental practice. It is a wonderful resource for everyone interested in dentistry’s green future.”

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