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A Smithfield, Virginia dentist uses environmentally friendly techniques




Clean teeth in a clean world

A Smithfield dentist uses environmentally friendly techniques.


February 28, 2008


When you think of polluters, dentists aren't typically the first thing
that comes to mind.

"The amount of waste generated from the dental industry is minuscule. I
mean, minuscule," said Dr. Jennifer Howard, D.D.S. "But everything
helps. Anything you can do to make some sort of an impact is always

Howard tried to cut down on pollutants and build an environmentally
friendly office when she opened her dental practice, Isle of Wight
Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, on Gumwood Drive in Smithfield in 2007.

Her efforts landed her a Businesses for the Bay Environmental Excellence
award for pollution prevention in November.

Among of the most noticeable changes are computer screens mounted above
examining chairs - a way to view X-rays without the potentially harmful
developing chemicals. X-rays are taken with a sensor smaller than the
size a book of matches that sends images onto the computer screen.

"The other obvious advantage, from my perspective, is that the radiation
dosage is much less when you're using digital X-rays, so the patient
isn't exposed to as much radiation," Howard said.

Howard also doesn't use silver amalgam fillings that contain mercury,
preferring tooth-colored composite resin fillings. Mercury is one of the
pollutants found in some Chesapeake Bay tributaries and can have
negative health effects for humans.

When she removes silver fillings, she uses an amalgam separator.

"That's disposed of just like any other contaminated waste," Howard
said. "It's sent off to a company, and they process it however they do,
and hopefully that prevents it from going into the environment."

She also uses a dry vacuum to dry out patients' mouths rather than the
traditional method, which uses continually cycling water to create a

The other changes may be less noticeable. The floor is covered in tile
because it would generate less waste than carpet if it needs to be
replaced. There are more windows and fewer overhead lights.

"The contractor wanted me to use twice the amount of overhead lights. I
cut it in half," Howard said. "He thought that was crazy. He thought I
was going to be working in a cave. I promised him I would be happy."

She designed the office to make it environmentally friendly, using the
U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental
Design rating system as a guide, said Tom Griffin. He's the outreach
coordinator for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality's
Office of Pollution Prevention.

Other dentists have incorporated environmentally friendly aspects from a
manual Griffin wrote with the Virginia Dental Association. But she's the
first to call and ask for advice in building an environmentally practice
from the ground up, Griffin said.

Some of the changes are paying off in a reduced electric bill. It's
between $200 and $400 a month to provide energy and heat to the
2,880-square-foot practice, Howard said.

"People don't even realize how easy it is and how much they can actually
save by doing the right thing," Howard said.

Other changes aren't as cheap. The digital X-ray sensor was about
$9,000, she said.

Howard, 30, lives in Smithfield but grew up in York County. She
attributes her environmental awareness to her upbringing.

"It wasn't so much a particular event. I was throughout my life aware of
my personal impact and potential to change the environment," Howard

Clean up your act at work 
Strategies for reducing workplace waste:

* Avoid the use of materials, if you can. For example, use e-mail
instead of paper.

* Buy products and equipment that are durable, repairable and

* Postpone the replacement of products as long as possible.

* Look for alternatives to the landfill, from textile manufacturers that
recycle used carpet to those that clean and resell computers.

Source: www.informinc.org

Copyright (c) 2008, Newport News, Va., Daily Press

Deborah L. DeBiasi
Email:   dldebiasi@deq.virginia.gov
WEB site address:  www.deq.virginia.gov
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
Office of Water Permit Programs
Industrial Pretreatment/Toxics Management Program
PPCPs, EDCs, and Microconstituents
Mail:          P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA  23218 (NEW!)
Location:  629 E. Main Street, Richmond, VA  23219
PH:         804-698-4028
FAX:      804-698-4032

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