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It’s Easy Being Green

Issue: Summer 2009
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Better for Your Practice, Your Patients, and the Earth

With my practice located in
environmentally conscious San Francisco, “going green” has
become a way of life. Digital radiography is a big part of my
“green-office” lifestyle-improving our dental health, our
budget and, ultimately, our environment.

The diagnostic attributes of digital X-ray were already
apparent-it’s easy to use, fast, and promotes co-diagnosis and
co-discovery. In addition, switching to digital radiography
helps us to become better environmental stewards.

Reduced radiation-Digital X-ray utilizes up to 90 percent
less radiation that traditional film X-ray-that means less
radiation exposure for my patients, for my team, and in our
office environment.

Less hazardous waste-Developing traditional X-rays means
exposing my staff to very toxic chemicals that are considered
hazardous waste. Some examples fixer and traditional X-ray
film are considered hazardous waste because of their silver

content. X-ray cleaner can contain chromium. Unused X-ray
developer contains hydroquinone. Wrappers around traditional
X-ray film contain lead that must be recycled.

Many states are implementing stringent disposal laws for these
chemicals. Under California law, X-ray fixer, developer, cleaner,
lead foils, and shields cannot be poured down the drain or
disposed of as garbage. They must be stored in appropriate
containers away from the public and inspected once a week for
leakage and deterioration and must be disposed of within 90
days of the date of accumulation, or for smaller users, after it
reaches a 27-gallon limit. Needless to say, we don’t need any of
these anymore, now that we’re digital.

Also, we must put removed amalgam fillings in a separate
receptacle to catch the mercury so it doesn’t pollute San
Francisco Bay. When the city and county inspectors came to
check our office for this and saw our digital radiography
system, they loved it because they didn’t have to deal with all
of the related chemical storage and hauling issues.

Healthier for the team-More importantly, now, my team
members don’t have to breathe the fixer or developer fumes as
they process the X-rays or clean the processor with caustic
chemicals while wearing protective glasses, gloves, and masks.

Healthier for the budget-In my office, before we initiated
digital X-ray, we’d store used chemicals until the hazardous
waste hauler came to remove them. That was an extra expense.

As a dentist, I’m glad to invest in
equipment that improves my patient care
and business, and that will also have an
impact on our future quality of life.

Some dental offices treat spent fixer with an onsite silver
recovery unit that requires a strict maintenance schedule. We’d
rather spend more time with the patients.

Less “busy work”-Toxic chemicals must be specifically
labeled as hazardous waste. Employees must receive training on
hazardous material handling, storage, disposal, spill cleanup-
and take an annual refresher course. Dental offices must
maintain records of all hazardous wastes generated on site.
Documentation has to be maintained for three years.

And more-We always inform our patients of our efforts to
promote a cleaner, greener world. It’s good marketing. We
always use the term “digital” X-ray. “Digital” connotes “safer.”
We discuss how we have gotten rid of our processing and
cleaning chemicals and darkroom, so we can use the space more
efficiently for them.

Investing in a digital radiography system is such an easy way
to streamline office procedures and be friendly to the
environment at the same time. Patients love that we care about
them and care about the environment-it’s a great message. As
a dentist, I’m glad to invest in equipment that improves my
patient care and business, and that will also have an impact on
our future quality of life.

Dr. Cynthia Brattesani owns a private practice in San Francisco
where she implemented digital X-ray more than six years ago. She was
awarded the prestigious ADA Golden Apple New Dentist Leadership
Award in 1996. An enthusiastic member of organized dentistry, she
has held positions at the local, state, and national levels. Dr.
Brattesani is a graduate of University of California at San Francisco,
School of Dentistry. You may reach her at info@drcynthiab.com