Environmental hazards have become a major global issue this century. Pakistan has continuously faced challenges in achieving environmentally sound development. Environmental health issues cause roughly one third of all child mortality in Pakistan, the highest rate in South Asia. It is very important to look at how we can reduce our impact on the environment by taking responsibility for our actions.
As dental professionals we should be keen to play our part in the society and lead eco-friendly practices by reducing any negative impact of our activities on the environment and people. Any practice that can prove to have deleterious effect on our environment and health should be directly intervened wherever it is possible, whether with our products or with our actions.
We must recognize that some of the materials and procedures we use to provide dental health services may pose challenges not only on our health but on our environment too. These include health risks posed by the use of conventional x-rays, whose fixer solution containing Ammonium thiocyanate and Boric anhydride whose by products are as toxic as the original chemical, cause multiple infections, if inhaled or ingested may even lead to blood toxicity and organ damage in cases of continued exposure. Our sterilization practices using toxic chemicals, disposable barriers, mercury waste from fillings and water wastage by the suction machines used in dental practice which can consume hundreds of gallons of water per day. The waste products ultimately get dumped into landfills or sewerage systems posing high environmental and health hazards.
A lot has already been said on the proper disposal of these waste products produced in our daily dental practice but why don’t we re-consider ways to tackle this problem? Why don’t we reduce waste and pollution on the front so that there is less to be dealt with at the back? The best way to eliminate toxic waste is to not create it in the first place! Green dentistry has given us an approach that provides alternates to the problem. Use of digital imaging, dry suction pumps, chemical sterilization, re-usable operatory objects, energy efficient lightening and tooth colored fillings are some of the ways that can significantly reduce waste disposal and operatory cost.
If implementation of this approach is proving to be eco-friendly, serving patients with better health and saves the practice money than green can be much more than just ways of practicing dentistry, it can become a source of giving back to the community. We as health care providers should care as much about what is going on in our community as we do within our office. We know that the economic condition of most of the Pakistanis do not allow reaching health care services by private practitioners therefore it is our moral and ethical obligation to provide treatment at minimal expense which is possible if we utilize profits gained from the reduced operatory costs and resource conservation. Green dentists round the world have been able to save nearly 50,000$ every year by simply switching to these simple measures. We can also donate portion of the money to health care organizations who serve the underprivileged of the society.
In conclusion, let us treat our patients with premium care while respecting the environment. Let us become part of the team that has the sense of social responsibility and accountability. Let us go more than Green!
Sara Ikram Khan