Single use plastics in the Dental Industry

The spotlight has been firmly placed on single use plastic waste in recent years and from the plastic bag mandate coming to the UK in 2015, to the Starbucks 5p levy on cups starting in London in 2018 it has steadily become expected that all industries do what they can to prevent the scenes of plastic destruction as shown on David Attenborough’s “Blue Planet 2”. Micro-bead plastics have been banned in the UK and this is bringing the dental industry into the conversation.

The Dental field has largely taken a back seat in these discussions as cross infection control is such an important part of the day to day care of patients and clinicians alike and plastic has a huge role in the provision of barrier defence.  However there are subtle changes that we could all make that will cut plastics use, reduce expensive incineration fees (and pollution) for contaminated waste, and minimise the toll that we as clinicians take on the environment.

I took a day to trial reducing plastic waste in my own dental surgery and of the twenty patients that I saw that day, nobody complained about the lack of cup to rinse with, and just the one lady was concerned about her shirt potentially getting splashed - but as it didn’t, she was also happy. Nobody reported a feeling of lack or reduction in service and a number of the patients commented that they had also been considering their plastic waste - including type of floss and recyclable toothbrushes.

Here are the easy swaps I made (working within HTM01-05), can you tell?

  • No cup to rinse - we washed out with 3/1 and suction
  • No plastic backed bib (unless we really thought there would be splashes - we would use tissue)
  • Autoclave-able suction tube
  • Prophy-paste from a jar rather than individually packaged
  • Coco-floss rather than plastic floss picks
  • Using a paper tray liner rather than plastic tray
  • Putting the fluoride varnish onto the tray liner rather than using the dapens (or using an autoclave-able one)

There are more changes that conscientious Dental practices can make - pouching regularly used instruments only at the end of sessions, going paper - free at the reception desk and opting for reusable eye protection - easy swaps that can be done relatively cost effectively and without delay.

We also recommend using biodegradable coco or bamboo floss and using cruelty free kingfisher fluoride toothpaste - which comes in biodegradable packaging.

What other ideas have you had in your own surgeries?

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Catherine-MawsonCatherine Mawson, Passionate about all things Dental Prevention Special interest in treating children, anxious patients andthose with Dental phobia.

Building lasting patient relationships by treating every patient as an individual.

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