by Karen Kaiser, RDH
Supplying products for patients to use at home is a common practice in many dental offices. Recently, after giving my patient a bag with recommended items, she responded, “No, thanks; I'm trying to save the environment.” She proceeded to take the contents out of the bag, toss them in her purse, kindly return the plastic bag, and with a smile headed to the reception desk. This recent experience with an eco–conscious patient shifted my thought process. Fortunately, many companies use natural ingredients in their formulations and opt to make use of recycled materials for packaging in an effort to be environmentally friendly.
Maintaining a clean dental office environment does not always have to be done with harsh chemicals. Harry J. Bosworth Company supplies a natural cleaning infection–control product line called Clorox Green Works for all types of cleaning situations. The cleaners use plant–derived, mineral–based, biodegradable agents to break down debris and dirt. From handy spray bottles to concentrated refillable bottles, the earth–friendly solutions can clean counters, stainless steel, mirrors, and more. With recyclable containers, the cleaners use corn–based ethanol, essential oils, coconut cleaning agents, and citric acid.
One company that comes to mind for natural home–care products is Tom's of Maine. Natural flavorings and ingredients fill its product line. Some of the highlights of Tom's of Maine products are: no artificial colorants, xylitol as sweeteners, gluten–free formulas, no synthetic flavors or scents, fluoride and fluoride–free formulas, and a choice of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or SLS–free formulas to dispense ingredients.
One of the toothpaste products in the Tom's of Maine line is interestingly named Wicked Fresh! This botanical blend comes in breath–freshening peppermint or spearmint using natural flavor oils. Wicked Fresh! has an active ingredient of sodium monofluorophosphate for decay prevention and vegetable oils as a base for moistening instead of animal products.
DenTek has introduced Natural Floss Picks, flossers made of 100% biodegradable materials. The packaging is recyclable. The handle of the flosser is made of starch products such as corn, potatoes, and wheat — not from a plastic, petroleum–base additive. Being formed from a starch resin allows the handle to break down easier in a composting facility, which is better for the environment.
Another natural product for the dental operatory is nonwoven gauze sponges by Medicom. SafeGauze Green is 100% biodegradable. Organic cotton, (making it free of toxic pesticides) and wood pulp make this sponge natural. Because the gauze is cotton, it is soft and does not catch on instruments. The U.S. Forest Stewardship Council replants trees to take the place of the fallen trees that are used to make the wood pulp.
Many companies use more sustainable materials, greener paper packaging, and manufacturing processes that release fewer environmental pollutants. For example, EcoBee Company has a BeeSure product packaging made with recycled material. The EcoBee line eliminates a chlorination process that may release gases into the atmosphere. Chlorination of gloves helps make them easier to don without the use of powder.
Another eco–friendly packager is JP Solutions with its Ecotex products. Included in this line is a disposable prophy angle, which has a packaging design with the environment in mind. The DPA is individually wrapped and latex–free. With recycled materials and biodegradable inks, the package of 100 needs a small shelf space that's slightly larger than a large egg carton. JP Solutions also makes donations from product sales of this line to nonprofit conservation organizations.
Paradise Dental Technologies has an Earthcare program that reduces and recycles shipping containers and even offers a free replacement for worn instruments when a dozen old instruments are exchanged.
Consider becoming an eco–friendly office and help to preserve our planet by using more natural products. Conservation is becoming increasingly easier as companies adopt more sustainable materials and smart packaging.
The author did not receive compensation for products mentioned.
Karen Kaiser, RDH, graduated from St. Louis' Forest Park dental hygiene program in 1994 and currently practices at the Center for Contemporary Dentistry in Columbia, Ill. She has written several articles for RDH and other publications, sits on dental hygiene panels, and is an evaluator for Clinical Research Associates.