SOURCE: The Eco-Dentistry Association

The Eco-Dentistry Association

September 09, 2010 13:26 ET

Eco-Dentistry Association™ Says Dental Disposables Help Perpetuate Petroleum Dependency

According to the Authority on Green Dentistry, Recent Gulf of Mexico Oil Disasters Are Reminders Why the Dental Industry Needs to Curb the Use of Petroleum-Based Plastics

BERKELEY, CA--(Marketwire - September 9, 2010) -  According to the Eco-Dentistry Association™ (EDA), an international association promoting environmentally sound practices in dentistry, the widespread use of disposable dental supplies, such as plastic chair covers and sterilization pouches, helps perpetuate the country's dependency on petroleum they are made from oil.

According to Susan Beck, Director of the Eco-Dentistry Association, "It's not just about turning off the lights or lowering the thermostat. Many dental practitioners aren't aware of the 'embodied energy' hiding in everyday disposable dental supplies."

Tremendous energy resources are used to extract raw materials, which are generally petroleum-based, to create a disposable dental product that is manufactured, packaged, shipped, stored, and then shipped again to a dental practice for one-time use. What's more, additional energy is required to transport that discarded product to a landfill, where it may sit for thousands of years.

For example, a single plastic sterilization pouch represents nearly 60 watts of embodied energy, which is the same amount of energy as leaving a 60-watt incandescent light bulb turned on for 5 hours! 

An average dental office can use as many as 55 plastic sterilization bags per day,1 which equates to leaving a 60-watt incandescent light bulb on for eleven and a half days. By the end of the year, the practice would have utilized enough energy to fuel a 60-watt incandescent bulb non-stop for six years and three months. Conversely, a dental office would have to use a cloth pouch over 4,800 times before it would have used the energy represented by one plastic pouch. 

Many dental professionals are surprised to find that disposables actually increase their supply costs. For instance, a large disposable autoclave pouch used for sterilizing instruments costs about 20 cents per use, while a reusable pouch costs about half as much per use. In fact, disposable items for infection control and sterilization can cost a dental practice as much as $2,337 per year more compared to the greener choice of reusable items.2 

The EDA offers three steps each dental practice can take to reduce its dependency on disposables, save money and eventually go green:

  1. Switch to reusable cloth infection control barriers and sterilization pouches. Choose plastic-free, FDA-registered brands and follow the EDA's Best Practices for Waste-Reducing, Pollution-Preventing Sterilization and Infection Control. (

  2. Choose reusable rinse and swish cups. You'll not only eliminate wasted embodied energy, but it is also a great way to reflect your practice personality.

  3. If you don't choose reusables, choose compostables. Although disposable, compostable plastics are made from plants, rather than petroleum, they require less energy to produce and decompose relatively quickly.

Moreover, just because a reusable item's life cycle is complete in the dental office, doesn't mean it's ready for the grave. Many EDA dental practice members donate their reusable cloth items to animal shelters to extend the item's life, while meeting an important community need. 

About the Eco-Dentistry Association™
The EDA is an educational organization that provides standards, best practices, and certification for green dental offices, and offers the public access to dental professionals who share their values of wellness and environmental stewardship. More information can be found at


  1. Adams E. Eco-friendly dentistry: not a matter of choice. J Can Dent Assoc. 2007 Sep;73(7):581-
  2. Natural Logic. Study of economic impact of dental office environmental innovations. Published 2008.

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