California dental school 'goes green'

Single-use gowns, paper towels, gloves, plastic packaging and butcher paper used by dental professionals all can contribute to a large carbon footprint. The Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of University of Southern California is working to diminish said footprint, according to a school news release.

The healthcare sector accounts for 10 percent of U.S. carbon emissions, the release reads.

Yaara Berdan, DDS, assistant professor of clinical dentistry at USC's dental school, conducted a study exploring how dentistry could reduce its environmental impact without compromising treatment safety and quality. The study consisted of a sustainability survey, a trash audit of the simulation labs and the creation of a student sustainability group.

The survey found a general interest on campus to learn more about the relationship between dentistry and sustainability. Dr. Berdan also reported a large amount of unopened and unused items being thrown away, such as gauze, gloves, packaging and floss singles. The Ostrow Sustainability Group was formed as a result of Dr. Berdan's study. The organization of 33 students hosts informational lectures on sustainability, publishes a bimonthly newsletter about conservation, and shares events and tips on Instagram.

The dental industry needs to look for creative solutions to cut both waste and cost, Dr. Berdan said. She said teledentistry has the potential to improve patient communication and help the environment by cutting carbon emissions from travel.

Dr. Berdan isn't concerned about anyone who is clinging to the ideology of "this is the way we've always done things."

"We're saving money. We're saving time," Dr. Berdan said. "That's the way you're going to get things to change."

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