The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

March 19, 2009

Does your new Eco-Dentist offer foot massages?

Just wondering. Because mine totally does.

(Okay, just to be clear — the foot massage is not performed by the dentist. That would be weird.)

Transcendentist in Berkeley, CA is the practice of Doctor Fred Pockrass, founder of the Eco Dentistry Association, and is the first certified green dental practice in California. When I made the decision to switch all my medical care from San Francisco to the East Bay, for the sake of convenience and also to save fuel miles (Yes, public transit uses fuel, too!), I chose a new dentist who is almost as anti-plastic waste as I am!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, take a look at the waiting and reception area:

Dr. Pockrass’s spa-like office matches his philosophy that patients are more than just mouths and teeth. To that end, he and his wife Ina have created a space that is not only beautiful, but as non-toxic as possible. Wall and floor finishes are water-based and no-VOC. A special water filter captures mercury from old fillings and allows it to be disposed of properly, rather than flushed into our waterways. Instruments are sterilized using steam rather than toxic chemicals.

And Dr. Pockrass uses digital imaging rather than traditional X-rays, which emits 75% – 90% less radiation and avoids the toxic chemicals associated with film processing. And digital images are available on the monitor immediately.

An added benefit is less plastic film waste. As you can see below, the only disposable plastic is the cover over the sensor, which is used to image the entire mouth.

Unfortunately, that sensor felt just as uncomfortable as film in my mouth. Guess there’s no getting around that. But the happy swimming dolphin video in front of me helped a little. This is Berkeley, after all!

After the photo session, Dr. Pockrass criticized examined my teeth. We won’t go into the details. Suffice to say, I have several more appointments scheduled over the next two months. :-( That’s what I get for letting a whole year fly by without a dental visit. And for not flossing enough!

This is also what I get for not flossing enough:

Much scraping. Ouch! But here’s where the foot massage comes in. Seriously. And the fuzzy warm blanket. And colored glasses (not shown in this photo) to cut the glare from the overhead light. They even offered me noise-cancelling headphones, but I thought that was a bit much.

Yes, Transcendentist has certified massage therapists who will do a complete foot massage while you’re having your teeth cleaned. If nothing else, it takes your attention away from the unpleasant sensations happening in your mouth. Well, unpleasant to me. I guess some people enjoy it. Probably people who floss several times a day.

But do you notice anything else cool about the photo above? Way, way less disposable plastic than in most dental offices. The white bib is cotton. The blue instrument cloth is just that… surgical-grade cloth. In fact, Transcendentist sells a line of cloth products for operatory use, encouraging other practitioners to make the switch away from paper and plastic. And the practice washes all its own cloth supplies in high efficiency machines using biodegradable detergents and disinfectants.

At the end of my visit, I was given a toothbrush made of recycled plastic inside a cotton pouch. Nice. I did notice, however, that the office also gives away Johnson & Johnson dental floss in a plastic container. Why not Eco-Dent?

Well, being me, I contacted Eco-Dent about give-away size samples for dental offices. I was all ready to bring the information to Dr. Pockrass during my next visit. Unfortunately, Eco-Dent let me know that they are a small company and do not offer the small size that most dental offices give away, which is probably why Transcendentist doesn’t. I, of course, had refused the plastic-packaged dental floss, assuring the hygienist that I really do have some at home, and I really, really will use it!

There are plenty more steps Transcendentist has taken to lighten its environmental footprint. Check out their site.

Do you have an Eco-Dentist in your area? You can find out. Check the Eco Dentistry Association’s Search Page. If there isn’t one near you, don’t despair. You can help the number of green dental practices grow. The Green My Dentist Page offers a sample letter you can bring to your dentist, as well as a form to request EDA send information to your dentist after you’ve taken the first step.

We don’t get what we want if we don’t ask for it.

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10 years ago

If you were to learn as many jobs skills as you can, traveling becomes much easier. If you take that massage course in Indonesia you will be taking away a skill that you can always use later down the road.

Gig Harbor Dentist
14 years ago

Looks like a nice office..
As far as cloth bibs go, you can wash them, and then autoclave them to sterlize them..

14 years ago

Wow – what a post. I have dentist envy now!

Eco-Dent’s website says that the floss is nylon, so I doubt it’s recyclable.

It looks like Radius has silk floss, but it’s in a plastic dispenser. I think the Cranberry is still nylon, but the site didn’t specify.

Anyone know of any other silk flosses out there?

14 years ago

Great dentist! :)

I've been looking for eco-friendlier floss too, is eco-dent floss recyclable or still tossable, just with less packaging?

I don't mind beeswax as such (especially if eco) & it would have to be shipped from far away.. so, not sure if it's worth the purchase?
What has been your experience with it? is it thin enough for narrow teeth? & are the gums happy?

Well, if everyone produced 'just' floss, it would be very little trash, anyway!!

Brioll, how are your teeth? Is re-using a tiny amount of floss okay? (the usual floss instructions say move on to new floss-? is that just marketing or indeed more healthy? or does it depend on the teeth? & food eaten-?)

14 years ago

Regardless of whether you use Eco-Dent or another floss, try it in a Gripit Floss Holder – These handy devices have kept my fingers out of my mouth when flossing for the last 30 years.

Lisa Sharp
14 years ago

That is to awesome! And you saying letting a whole year go by without going to the dentist makes me feel guilty lol. We won’t say how long it’s been haha.

14 years ago

As if you great bulk bin stores weren’t enough to make me jealous!!…sigh…even the plants in my dentists office are plastic!!!!

14 years ago

I just saw an add for this! How funny. They don’t take my insurance, though. :(

14 years ago

My dentist recently switched to the digital imaging system — I’m glad to know that it’s safer and better for the planet! (But yes, it’s just as painful, I agree…)

Beth Terry
14 years ago

Hi Joyce. According to Dr. Pockrass, the type of cloth they use and the method they use to sterilize is compliant with OSHA. In fact, the web site actually states, “Our fabrics are specially chosen for dental office applications, taking into consideration both durability and OSHA requirements.”

You might want to have your brother-in-law contact the Eco Dentistry Association to find out how switching to cloth can be done in a sterile and OSHA-compliant manner.

14 years ago

My dad was a dentist (now rtired), and my brother-in-law is currently practicing dentistry. Dad used cloth bibs, etc. until OSHA regulations changed in the late 1980s because of the need to manage blood born pathogens like AIDS and hepatitis. So much of the “disposable” environment of a dentist’s office is an outcome of those regulations. It’s great that you have found someone who will put strenuous effort into reducing their waste. I just thought it was important for folks to know why they see so much plastic and paper in most dental offices.

14 years ago

I love this post Beth! I just got a new dentist (because I finally got dental insurance) and while the office is nice, there is a LOT of plastic being thrown away. I think I’ll give them a nudge and see if they’re amenable to switching to a lighter footprint! Thank YOU!

14 years ago

I love how you always have your camera on hand at ALL TIMES! :)

14 years ago

If I flew out there to go to your amazing dentist and get a foot massage, that would probably kill the carbon footprint/waste savings a gazillion times over, huh?