Dental hygienist Elaine Tilling suggests the future of the planet lies in our workplace habits

For your patients

Chop off their heads!

Plastic toothbrushes, including electric toothbrush heads are made from three materials, all of which are fully recyclable in the UK. Our problem here is that we do not yet have the facilities to separate out the component parts. The interim solution is touse a pair of garden shears, then, ensuring you protect your eyes from possible splinters. Cut off the brush head and put in your municipal waste and pop the plastic handle into your plastic recycling. Most toothbrushes are made of high-quality polyethylene and can be fully recycled.

Invest in a toothpaste squeezer

These ensure you use every last drop of the paste. The Oral Health Foundation has a lip-shaped tube squeezer on its website –

Purchase toothpaste that is in a fully recyclable tube

Last year, Colgate shared the intellectual property of its new fully recyclable toothpaste tube with competitors, thanks to mounting pressure from eco-conscious shoppers. Let’s encourage toothpaste manufacturers to use it by choosing only to purchase toothpastes in recyclable tubes.

Turn off the tap

Remember we don’t need to keep the tap running whilst brushing. Conserving water is an important part of living sustainably – even for those of us who live in temperate climates.

Prevention is the sustainable answer

We know this! The more effective the plaque control, the less disease we see. Brushing for two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and including full-mouth interdental cleaning once a day is the sustainable way to prevent disease.

Size and technique matter

Make sure you take the time to select the right oral hygiene tools. Getting it wrong results in poor clinical outcomes and products being wasted. Size interdental brushes correctly and ensure that you/the patient can use an effective, atraumatic technique. Interdental brushes last much longer if they are sized correctly and used effectively.

Become a ‘green’ member of your team

Use an enthusiastic member of the team or home to research, set up and coordinate environmental initiatives drives success through their passion. Is that you?

Green CPD

Consider the most sustainable way of achieving your CPD. Local provision/online/set up a study club?

Do your homework

We grow ever more aware of the impact our everyday lives have on the environment. Try to stay up to date with the eco options of the products you use at home and recommend for patients. Check out

Be kind

To yourself and the planet. We cannot change everything overnight but, by taking small steps by ourselves and together, we can make a difference.

For your practice

Return to reusables

Consider removing as many single-use items as possible from your daily practices, such as plastic suction tips, Dappens pots and mouthwash containers. Return to reusable alternatives whenever it is safe, infection control-compliant and practical to do so.

Switch to green energy

Most energy providers offer a green energy contract – the more of us that use them, the less expensive they become. Suggest a move to green energy at your next practice meeting.

Encourage family appointments

Travelling to and from health care appointments are the highest contributor to a practice’s CO2 emissions – sharing vehicles makes sense.

Encourage recycling in your practice

Utilise the full gambit of your local recycling facilities – food waste, paper/card, plastic and glass and so on.

Monthly 10-mile lunch

Encourage the team to shop local and all commit to having a regular lunch that is locally produced with local products that are from a 10-mile radius of the practice.

Shop green

Seek out suppliers that provide sustainably sourced materials with sustainable packaging.

Stock control/good housekeeping

An obvious one but… how many times do you find out of date products lurking at the back of the cupboards? Order for need and monitor the stock.


Where possible, swap the lighting in the practice to use the more sustainable LED lighting. The kitchen, storeroom, staff room, staff toilets and, possibly, the waiting area are all places where the more sustainable light bulbs could work well.Don’t forget to tell the patients why you have chosen to do this.

Go paperless

Use electronic communication wherever possible and use your communications on appointment times to share health promoting advice on Oral Hygiene tips etc.

Green travel

Encourage journeys to the practice that don’t involve private cars for the patients and the staff. Check out the local bus routes and cycle lanes and put them on the practice website.

Just because it is 2021!

Remember, doing just ONE thing from these lists is a small step in the right direction… Every step counts!


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