The Whole Tooth: Creating Dentistry's Green Wave

Country's First Green Dental Office Celebrates 10 Years, Serves as Model to Dental Industry

Transcendentist®, a green dental spa nestled in the heart of Berkeley, California, is no ordinary dental office. Ten years ago on March 3, 2003, the groundbreaking office opened its doors as the first eco-friendly dental practice in North America, creating a ripple impacting the nation and world. Dr. Fred Pockrass and his wife Ina Pockrass designed a model for a green dental office that serves as the foundation for the Eco-Dentistry Association®, an educational body they founded in 2008, which has grown to 800 members in 45 U.S. states and 16 countries around the world.

The Transcendentist® office incorporates sustainability in all aspects of the practice, from the built environment, to the dental materials and processes used, to how the office runs day to day. It has been certified as a green business since 2003 by the Bay Area Green Business Program, whose coordinator, Pam Evans says: "Ten years ago, the Green Business Program was looking for a pioneer in green dentistry. We found one in Dr. Fred Pockrass."

The office's initiatives include digital x-rays which expose patients to 75 to 90% less radiation and which eliminates the need for lead foils and toxic x-ray development chemicals, to a special device which captures between 1.5 and 3 pounds of mercury-containing material a year before it enters local waterways.

As an all-digital practice, Transcendentist® uses software, not paper files, for patient charting and scheduling, eliminating the need for as many as 20,000 sheets of paper a year. And the office's use of cloth patient bibs, made of surgical grade cotton and washed on site in energy efficient machines, means more comfort for patients and the diversion from landfills of 15,000 pieces of plastic and paper each year. They have even installed a vacuum system that is water-free, saving almost 500 gallons of water a day. But perhaps the best news for patients is the relaxation they experience when they receive a complimentary foot massage with every dental treatment.

"We know that many have fear around the dentist," says Dr. Pockrass, "and we set out to create a place where our patients would feel comfortable and know they were doing something good for the environment while they were taking care of their own health."

The Transcendentist® model struck a nerve (forgive the pun) with patients and fellow dentists, who began approaching the Pockrass' within their first year of operation to find out whether there was a green dentist in their city. "By 2008, we knew it was time to share the expertise we had garnered in setting up and running our own successful practice and to effect a transformation in the dental industry at large," says Ina Pockrass. "That marked the birth of the Eco-Dentistry Association, which provides a forum for dentists and patients to connect based upon shared values," says Pockrass.

In addition to its educational programs, the Eco-Dentistry Association has a certification program for green dental offices world-wide, its GreenDOC™ program, and will be holding the industry's first green dentistry conference in May, at the Robert Redford Conference Center at the Sundance Resort in Utah. "The heath of individuals and our communities is integrally linked to the health of the planet. Our vision is that in the next 10 years 'green dentistry' will just be the way dentistry is practiced," says Dr. Fred Pockrass. "It's better for patients, better for the planet and better for the bottom line."