A trip to the dentist may seem pretty mundane – unless your dental office is The DC Dentist in Washington D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, voted the city’s best dentist in Washington City Paper’s Reader Poll two years running. With aromatherapy, herbal pain remedies and ceiling tiles made of recycled plastic bottles, Dr. Terry Victor and his staff are modernizing healthcare in their community, starting with how their building contributes to the health of their patients and their neighborhood. The D.C. Dentist turned to Groundswell to help them switch to 100% wind power, and saved 7% on their energy bill as a result – proceeds the office is free to return to their patients in the form of better healthcare.

We caught up with The D.C. Dentist staffer Yejide Calhoun to learn more about this unique dental practice. Here’s what she had to say:

On what inspired The D.C. Dentist to take a natural approach

While Dr. Victor was in dental school, he used herbs and natural remedies to heal himself when he got sick, instead of taking aspirin or cold medicine, for example. He thought: I don’t want to use some these medicines on myself, and I really don’t want to use them on my patients.  So he decided to find a way to develop more homeopathic remedies and treatments.

We are the first dental practice in the D.C. area to be holistic, biological and eco friendly -- and perhaps the first one on the East Coast. We use a whole range of remedies that people may not be used to in a regular dental office, including aromatherapy.  All of our products are herbal based, from the toothpaste to the rinse we use. We use homeopathic remedies for patients before they come into the office, during their visit, and after their visit, including for pain relief.  We do still use Novocain, but if we can avoid it, we do our best to. 

As part of our practice, we try to be very conservative about how we treat the earth and our patients.  We don’t use mercury fillings, because if it’s not good for you to hold it in your hands, how good can it be for you to carry it around in your mouth? We aim to practice in way that’s healthy for the patient, and healthy for the people serving the patients. 

On the dentistry’s green features

More than 30 elements within the building are intentionally eco-friendly.  All of the products that we use are safe for the environment, from the hand soaps and the cleaning supplies to the countertops and the the chairs you sit on.  We have refurbished chairs in our waiting room that could have been rubber tires at one point.  Our ceiling tiles are composed of water bottles that are serving another purpose, instead of going to the landfill.  We have a green roof, and we use wind power.

On how their patients inspired them to switch to wind power

Because of what we do, we attract patients who are conscious of the environment, and so they help us to be more conscious as well. Some our patients told us about Groundswell, and how the organization could help us make sure the energy we were receiving was renewable. Even though you think you’ve covered all the eco-friendly bases, there’s always room for improvement. It was easy breezy switching to wind, there was nothing on our part really to do except to change the company. We got a report back that showed us that the amount of pollution we’ve avoided so far by using wind power amounts to keeping several cars off the road.  That was nice to see.

On broadening the mission beyond dentistry

During what we call Green Office Week, we invite different experts in the city to come by to alert our patients to things they can do at home. We’ve had people come in to talk about solar panels. We’ve had different holistic practitioners come in.  We also think about ways to take care of the staff, because so often, when you’re working on other people, you tend to forget about yourself. One of the things we started here was a yoga practice for patients and practitioners – just to say, okay, it’s your turn, take care of yourself.

We’re dedicated to improving the overall health of the patients, and working with medical doctors as well to provide the best care possible. We use a sustainable building to provide a healthy environment for patients, the staff and the community. We really want to be a place where people can come and learn, and be educated not just about their mouth but about all the aspects of their health. If you think about your mouth being the gateway to your overall health, we want to our best to keep you healthy.  Because you have to eat to live, so you need those teeth!