We should all be aware that some dental procedures and materials aren’t good for the environment. This is especially important for dental practitioners who have the most power to minimize the risk and save the environment.
Understanding the Environmental Impacts of Dentistry
Dentistry basically focuses on improving oral health through education and dental procedures. But some of the materials that are used in dentistry can be very harmful to the environment. These include biomedical waste and heavy metals.
One dentist can create a small amount of unfriendly ways to the environment but put together with all the dentists, it can have a detrimental impact. This has been of great concern in recent years due to the heavy metal contamination of water systems particularly attributed to dentist because of the generation of dental amalgam waste.
After consulting with dentist Dr. Moustafa we discovered that because of dental amalgams durability cost-effectiveness and long-lasting nature it’s the preferred choice for dentists. The downside is that it contains silver, mercury and other metals that contaminate the environment. Mercury has been proven to have toxic effects in plants humans and animals.
Organic mercury can enter the food web where it accumulates in higher organisms such as fish and birds. This has resulted two restrictions on the consumption of certain fish species by humans in order to prevent dangerous health risks.
A present it is estimated that dentists are responsible for between 3% and 70% of the overall mercury load that enters wastewater treatment facilities. Practitioners should be aware of this and adhere to best management practices when handling and disposing of dental amalgam.
Fortunately, there are a lot of ways that dental practices are helping to reduce their carbon footprint and pollution. This is going to be even more important in the years to come.
Investment in the best management practice usually applies to a range of hazardous waste depending on the risk they pose to the environment. These guidelines give dental practitioners information on the environmental impact a various substances that are harmful.
When it comes to mercury, it’s important to take into account its various forms used and created in the dental sphere. Dental practitioners should always use precapsulated dental amalgam so that the risk of liquid mercury spells can be reduced. Dentist can also reduce the amount of dental amalgam triturated for procedures to lower waist overall.
Currently many dental offices are equipped with secondary filters to protect their pumps as well as chair side filtration devices. These devises serve to filter large particles of dental amalgam and have been proven to be around 68% effective in stopping amalgam particles from being released in wastewater. This is a very good way that dentists can help embrace sustainability.
In Canada, installing these devices is mandatory in many regions, such as Saskatchewan, Ontario, Montreal and the Capital Regional District including the city of Victoria and surrounding areas in British Columbia.
Dental amalgam waste and mercury should be handled in the same way that’s one handles hazardous waste when they are collected. To keep themselves safe all staff and practitioners should be effectively trained in the usage of masks, gloves, gowns and protective eyewear whenever in contact with amalgam waste. The dental amalgam scrap should also be labelled and stored in leak-proof containers.
Another heavy metal of great concern is silver which can enter the wastewater system through improper disposal of dental office waste. Silver is one of the components of dental amalgam but some forms of silver are more toxic than others such as silver thiosulfate.
It is proven that to manage silver waste effectively methods of recovery and recycling should be implemented. Dental offices should be equipped with recovery units to filter the silver and this can also provide a monetary return because the silver can then be collected and sold.
Because of the advancements in radiographic technology, digital imaging is becoming the go-to option to get dental radiographs, because it reduces radiation exposure and also doesn’t require chemical image processing. Dental offices can greatly benefit from digital imaging, because of its ability to reduce the generation of silver waste.
Lead has also been shown to be toxic for the environment, just like silver and the mercury. There can be detrimental health effects by even a little exposure to lead in both adults and children. Practitioners should reduce the amount of lead waste generated in those offices by following the proper guidelines.
All dental practitioners should make environmental health a major concern in their professional and personal lives. The health of our planets depends on it.
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