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Open Letter on Global Climate Change to all Dental Hygienists and Dental Professionals.

How can tooth brushing help to save the planet?
I am writing to you all as a Founder of O’Hehir University (OHU) but more importantly, someone who has a big interest in making a big difference in global climate change.  At OHU we are proud to say that we have a very low carbon footprint and I passionately believe the future of post-graduate education will negate the need for people to spend money and waste time and unnecessary energy traveling to meetings and educational classes. Although an important issue, this is not the main point of my letter.

As well as being a Dental Hygienist and Educator, I also have a Bachelors Degree in Geosciences and therefore I have some insight into how we as a group can engender a small simple change that will make an enormous difference to our planet in energy reduction and water preservation. You are probably aware that for the last week, world leaders have been meeting in Paris in order to reach an agreement to reduce carbon emissions in order to reduce the heating of our planet and the subsequent dangers that would result, such as global sea level rise.

The simple message I am asking you to give to your families, friends, colleagues and patients; is to turn the tap off when brushing teeth. Some of you may think this is such a small thing, that it will have very little impact, compared to the effect of transport and industry but it is all about helping to meet the targets set by our leaders. They will be setting goals for reductions in energy consumption throughout the forthcoming years. If all the people in the world, started to make this small change of turning the tap off, we as a world population, would already be well on the way to meeting the target for the first year in energy consumption.

In order to demonstrate this, here are some mathematical approximations based on brushing teeth twice a day with the water running:

1. The tap would run for 2 minutes each cleaning and the water flow would typically be 2.5 gallons per minute. Annually this would equal: 2 minutes x 2.5 gallons x 365 days = 1825 gallons of water per year per person.

If this was reduced to 10 seconds twice a day in order to wet the brush and rinse at the end, (although we know it is better not to rinse in order to maximize fluoride) each person would use 182.5 gallons of water per year and make a 90% saving. (This is also an opportunity to spread the ‘spit don’t rinse’ message at the same time, impacting on caries reduction). For my USA friends, you have an approximate population of 319 million. This would be water saving of:

1642.5 gallons x 319 million = 524 billion gallons of water per year. For my European friends, Europe has a population of approximately 750 million. This would be water saving of:

1642.5 gallons x 750 million = 1,232 billion gallons of water per year. Creating a global estimate is difficult, as the whole world doesn’t have access to a tap but using just the USA and European numbers and to paint a picture this equates to about a quarter of the annual flow of the Colorado River. This energy saving and water preservation alone is enormous.

The world population is 7 billion, so you can have a guess what the energy and water savings could be, by just making this small change.

So, what can you do? It’s really simple.

1. Spread the message and the knowledge.
2. Please forward this letter to the dental press and any other interested parties.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Tim Ives RDH, BSc (Hons), MA Med Ed, FHEA