FDI launches consensus statement to improve sustainability in oral healthcare

Image via FDI

FDI World Dental Federation (FDI) has launched its inaugural Consensus Statement on Environmentally Sustainable Oral Healthcare, aimed at moving the oral healthcare sector towards more environmentally friendly practices that ultimately reduce the carbon footprint of the profession.

“It will come as a surprise to many people that the healthcare sector is responsible for around 5% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, of which oral healthcare is an important contributor,” said Professor Ihsane Ben Yahya, FDI President and dean of the Faculty of Dentistry, Mohammed VI University of Health Sciences, Casablanca, Morocco.

“The dental industry has a collective responsibility to reduce its environmental impact and today’s consensus statement is the first major step to achieving that. The consensus statement reflects the growing recognition within the oral healthcare community that we must strive to improve oral health in a sustainable manner in compliance with UN targets. Healthier mouths mean a healthier planet.”

Oral healthcare contributes to the environmental burden through air pollution arising from the release of CO2 associated with travel and transport, incineration of waste, lack of recyclable packaging, the GHG impact of anaesthetic gases such as nitrous oxide, and the high consumption of water.

The consensus statement identifies the complex drivers that underpin current behaviours and practices, and recommends remediation strategies based on the 4 Rs: Reduce, Recycle, Reuse and Rethink.

While highlighting some of the unavoidable environmental impacts linked to providing accessible dental check-ups and treatments to facilitate good oral health and reduce inequalities in healthcare, it also makes the case for minimising “avoidable” oral healthcare. It argues that it is best achieved through the delivery and maintenance of good oral healthcare, focused on prevention with the promotion of good oral hygiene, healthy low-sugar diets, and avoidance of tobacco.

“Prevention is better than cure and it is the most impactful and practical way of reducing the need for clinical interventions and associated environmental impacts,” said Professor Nicolas Martin, chair of the FDI Sustainability in Dentistry Task Team, and clinical professor in Restorative Dentistry in the School of Clinical Dentistry at the University of Sheffield in the UK.

“When treatment is required, oral healthcare should focus on the provision of durable fillings, using high-quality products and materials that will last longer and/or require fewer replacements.”