Dentists worldwide are trying to make oral hygiene greener

You might raise an eyebrow if someone told you that your dentist's practice was going green. But, what if it meant that you could get a crown while helping the environment? Since the Eco-Dentistry Association (EDA) was founded in 2008, dental offices in 45 states and 14 countries have come together with the common goal of making dentistry a green career by cutting back on waste and energy consumption, according to the organization's website.

The EDA estimates 100 million liters of clean drinking water are flushed down the drain daily in U.S. dental offices. Add in roughly 10,000 kilos of mercury-laden amalgam waste particles and all of those disposable plastics, and a dental practice can be more wasteful than you'd think. Some waste is unavoidable, but there are a lot of ways that dentists can make up for it by lessening their impact in other places.

And that's exactly what Dr. Nathan Swanson had in mind when he opened his own practice five years ago. Swanson told James West of nonprofit social justice news website Mother Jones that he wants to be New Hampshire's greenest dentist, and that he has practical, cost-effective and efficient ways to achieve his goal. From simple changes like offering patients biodegradable toothbrushes made from recycled yogurt cups to making his office completely paperless by digitalizing all patient records, he's garnered national attention for his efforts to use green energy-efficient products.

As the EDA's movement is spider-webbing through the industry, schools like Massachusetts' Tufts University School of Dental Medicine have been trying to make their learning environments eco-friendly as well. In the last four years, Tufts has added five floors to its dental school that qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver Certification for their sustainable design, efficient water usage, reduction of energy consumption, use of recycled building materials and improved indoor environment control. Tufts is continuing its efforts and aims to achieve LEED Gold Certification in the near future, according to the school's website.

To find a dentist that is a member of the EDA, visit: http://www.ecodentistry.org/Search/

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