The Four ‘R’s Of Green and Eco-Friendly Dentistry

The Four ‘R’s Of Green and Eco-Friendly Dentistry

The concept of a dentist having to operate to protect the environment is at least a decade old, but for many dental practices, that concept is still relatively new. That is not because they do not care or are in any way against protecting the environment.

Instead, it is partly because specific dental processes identified as having some of the most significant negative impacts on the environment might be consideredconsidertal procedures.

Just two prime examples include x-rays for identifying issues within teeth and gums and the filling of tooth cavities. Both of these use toxic materials such as mercury and x-ray fixers, yet they are used in abundance throughout the world of dentistry.

To assist medical professionals, including dentists, in better understand how they could improve their green credentials, a simple concept called the four ‘R’s was introduced. These four ‘R’s are four words that go to the heart of how dentists and any individual or business can reduce the harm they do to the environment.

The ‘R’ words are, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rethink. They are given in that specific order, which often surprises people who assume that recycling would be the fir. However, reducing and reusing can play a more significant role in decreasing waste.

Whilst you probably have some understanding of each of the words, we shall go through each of them with a bit more of an explanation as they relate to how they can guide a dental practice towards protecting the environment.


This refers directly to the consumption of resources, from physical items such as instruments and protective clothing to the amount of electricity a dental practice might use. Other prominent examples of consumption are water and paper.

Ways a dental practice can reduce what it consumes include switching to digital technologies for imaging, switching to processes that use less water, and switching off all equipment, lights, and computers at night.


Not to be confused with recycling, the reuse of items means that instead of only being used on a single occasion, they can be used multiple times. Another principle of reuse is prolonging the life of items and equipment so that they do not need to be replaced as often.

Simple ways to introduce reuse into your dental practice include cloth lab coats instead of paper ones, reusable face shields, and using glass cups for rinsing instead of plastic ones.


Presumably, everyone knows the part recycling plays in helping to reduce the amount of waste we create, and it can be achieved with as much impact in a dental practice as any other type of business.

Opportunities to recycle include instruments, where you can send them to a medical instrument recycling facility, paper, magazines, and not forgetting recyclable packaging, including that in the staff room, where you should locate a recycling bin.


This is not a specific set of actions but rather a change in attitude and mindset, which you want to become an intrinsic part of your dental practice.

To succeed, you must be thinking green, but you also want buy-in from your staff. Additionally, it will advance the objective even further if you can educate your patients on how they can be greener about their oral hygiene regimes.