New products, appointments, and launches, 2023 marked the 109th year of the World Dental Congress inaugurated by the Fédération Dentaire Internationale World Dental Federation (FDI), jointly hosted this year by the Australian Dental Association (ADA) and FDI, in Sydney, Australia.
Over 10,000 participants from across Australia and around the world, gathered for the largest dental held in the southern hemisphere from 24-27 Sep at the International Convention Centre in Sydney for the FDI Congress. Visitors were treated to a scientific programme of over 220 talks, demonstrations, and symposia across a vast range of oral health topics during the four days.
Melbourne dentist Dr Sharonne Zaks AO featured in a key talk as she spoke on ‘The link between sexual assault and poor oral health’. Over two decades in private practice Dr Sharonne Zaks noticed a disturbing pattern with some female patients, and after some gentle inquiries she uncovered an awful truth. Many were survivors of sexual assault, with the experience of being in the dental chair recreating the conditions that mimicked the sexual abuse, she realised.
“Dental appointments can trigger memories of sexual assault and trauma to resurface due to the many parallels they share, which explains survivors’ widespread anxiety and avoidance. This results in very poor oral health,” said Dr Zaks. “Around one third of our female patients and one sixth of our male patients have survived sexual assault and most stay undisclosed, so we need to know what to look out for. For example, we can see damage from coping strategies like addictions in the mouth.”
Dr Zaks guided dentists through the issues and the practical steps to address them, including how to recognise survivors, rebuild trust and safety, respond to disclosures, information sharing and reporting obligations, referral scenarios, and clinical tips for tailoring care.
She has adapted the MARAM guidelines developed in response to the Royal Commission into Family Violence, to private practice for the first time, and was the first person to integrate the trauma-informed approach into the Australian dental setting.
In another key talk, ‘Vaping: a universal panacea for ceasing tobacco – or a disaster?’, Prof Purnima Kumar, looked at how smoking, vaping and waterpipes increase the risk for oral disease, and investigates if waterpipes are a safer option than cigarettes. In her research, the expert on vaping and its effects on the mouth has seen damage to the mouths of vapers using vapes for six months which equates to five years’ worth of damage in a smoker’s mouth.
“News is coming from France about plans to ban disposable vaping devices in an effort to limit access to under 18 year-olds. The world is waking up to the dangers of vaping. My own lab has just discovered that vaping can thin the protective membranes that line our mouth and gums. As dentists, it is time to take the lead in educating patients, parents and care-givers, and what better way than using evidence to combat hearsay,” she said.
In addition to the educational talks and lectures, the FDI World Dental Congress 2023 also saw the launch of new programmes and elections of key appointments.
A new sustainability resource for practices created by the ADA went live at the congress which contains a six-module guide on practical sustainability will help practices to become more environmentally friendly now and ahead.
The Australian Dental Health Foundation was officially relaunched as the ADA Dental Health Foundation. The new name and look will represent a brand that reflects its pivotal connection to Australian dentistry, where the important work of treating people from the most dentally disadvantaged sections of Australian society will continue unabated. Furthermore, the 2023 Rebuilding Smiles 5K Charity Run commenced on day three of event to raise money for the ADA Dental Health Foundation which seeks to improve the dental health of Australians who cannot easily access dental care.
As the four-day congress in Sydney came to a close, Gregory Chadwick, DDS, was installed as FDI president during its general assembly, having served as the president-elect since being elected in 2021.
“Today, I find myself back … in front of the General Assembly, eager to assume this new role and responsibility that come with it. I am energised by our mission and the opportunity that we all have to play a role in improving oral health and making this planet a healthier place for all of us and future generations,” said Dr Chadwick.
Dr Chadwick served as American Dental Association president from 2001-02 and a trustee from 1996-2000. He then served for six years as speaker of the FDI General Assembly and replaces the outgoing Prof Ihsane Ben Yahya.
The FDI World Dental Congress 2023 in Sydney was the first ‘in person’ World Dental Congress in four years and is expected to net the NSW economy AU$31m (US$20m). The next congress will be held from 12-15 Sep 2024 in Istanbul, Turkeye, where visitors will have the chance to celebrate the 110th edition of the FDI World Dental Congress.