Dentistry, sustainability and the war on waste

14 October 2018

The ABC series The War on Waste has helped put the issue of the way Australians manage their waste firmly on the national agenda with the Australian Dental Association offering specific guidelines on how to improve sustainability in a dental practice.

A range of policies outlines what is expected from Australian dentists, particularly Policy Statement 6.21 – Dentistry and Sustainability, which explains the regulatory requirements of dental practise and the current voluntary ADA dental practice accreditation scheme. Another policy statement, 6.11 Dental Amalgam Waste Management, details the importance of the process. 

What’s notable about both policy statements, however, is how working this way is now considered a commitment to best practice procedures, along with a cost-effective approach in following these models.

ADA member Dr Brendan White, the former chairman of the ADA’s Ad Hoc Sustainability Committee, says the approach to sustainability and waste management in the current ‘war on waste’ era marks a significant change to the attitude within dentistry of only a decade ago, reflecting greater community awareness of environmental issues, and better promotion of waste reduction and management. 

“There is also a better understanding that to make change, you have to start at the ground level and work up,” he says. “Practitioners are also getting younger, and the majority of Australian dentists are now below 40, so that marks a changing of the guard and a changing of attitudes. 

“Also, we’ve seen some of this driven by patients who today are far more likely to ask about what kind of procedures you follow, and often want to know the way you work is environmentally aware.”

It’s a changing of attitude and practice that Dr White believes can only continue to grow, changing the face of the profession for the sustainable better.

“The ADA will continue to encourage dentists to practise in environmentally-responsible ways, and once you have a fair few of the community on board, that’s when we’re going to see real change.”

For more information on specific initiatives and the changing environmental face of dentistry please go to News Bulletin Online, August issue.