One Hygienist’s Journey to Green Dentistry
For this week’s guest blog we are honored to hear directly from longtime EDA member Kathleen Bernardi.
Please tell us a little about yourself, your practice and what inspired you to be a leader in green dentistry.
I am 57 years young and I have been a Registered Dental Hygienist for 35 of those years! I have been married for 34 years, yes…to the same man, and together we have three sons. I truly believed that I would retire practicing in my last “Dentist’s” office of 18 years. However…I experienced a number of crises in my own health and ended up quitting my job in order to devote myself to my healing. I opened my own dental practice (RDH’s in Ontario can do this without a dentist), and had to complete reports for the municipal building department on water usage in dental offices. This research began my journey down the green dentistry path. Everything else fell into place after I stumbled upon the Eco Dentistry Association website!
You recently had an experience that led you to look into mercury and its environmental impact. Tell us about that.
I was seriously looking into the possibility of having a dentist-friend of mine see patients here a few days a week for their restorative work. I found out that while amalgam separators catch mercury waste before it exits the office into the sewers, I did not like the idea of contaminating the lines in my home office, and even if minimal, my septic bed. I live on a very ecologically-sensitive piece of property and realized that no amount of mercury accumulation in my home and on my land was going to be acceptable. In the end, I decided not to add a dentist to my practice.
Why are you concerned about mercury contamination?
It is an issue because most of us are oblivious to mercury’s ability to bioaccumulate in ecosystems and its significant negative effects on human health and the environment. While many dentists are no longer placing mercury fillings they are still drilling them out and replacing them, which I believe can leave their patients, their staff and the environment exposed to unacceptable levels of mercury exposure.
You are a Silver Certified GreenDOC™ practice. What green initiative in your office are you most proud of?
My water conservation! My property is situated on the Oak Ridges Moraine, an environmentally-protected area that is a significant water source for surrounding municipalities.
If you could offer just one piece of advice to help your colleagues become a little more environmentally friendly, what would it be?
Treat your office as if it were your home! Would you want your children or grandchildren staying with you for a week exposed to airborne toxins from disinfectants and dental materials?
Kathleen Bernardi is a Registered Dental Hygienist with over 30 years of clinical experience and proud owner of Woodland Dental Hygiene, an independent dental hygiene clinic. Her holistic, integrative approach is born from her commitment to preventative health in her own life and she believes that the opportunity to share this with others is creating a new and exciting model of oral health care delivery!