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Dr. Jaime Edelson Tishman has been a family dentist in Mexico City since 1980. He is currently running for the position of President-elect of the FDI World Dental Federation. (Photograph: Dr. Jaime Edelson Tishman)
0 Comments Aug 14, 2017 | News Americas

Interview: “We have to work together and take the FDI from vision to action”

Post a comment by Javier de Pisón, DT Latin America

Dr. Jaime Edelson Tishman is one of two candidates for President-elect of the FDI World Dental Federation. If elected during the association’s general assembly on 31 August, he will hold the position from 2019 to 2021. Past President of the Asociación Dental Mexicana Federación Nacional de Colegios de Cirujanos Dentistas [Mexican dental association], councilor of the FDI and member of the FDI’s task teams for the Global Caries Initiative, the World Oral Health Day and Vision 2020, he was instrumental in the approval of a landmark law in Mexico City that makes it mandatory for the city’s government to offer oral health education, as well as a free basic package of toothbrushes and toothpaste to all kindergarten and elementary schoolchildren in public schools to implement daily mandatory brushing. The law, signed in April, established for the first time the right of schoolchildren to obtain information on the prevention of oral disease. Dental Tribune Latin America spoke with Edelson about his global plans should he be elected FDI President.

What is the importance of the FDI, and which do you consider its main initiatives?
The FDI is the most important reference for policy statements on how dentistry should be practiced around the world. The FDI has not been effective in some countries because one cannot export values; one has to apply the local values of each country, of each region. When approached that way, it becomes a win-win situation.

Through its committees and the input of delegates of national dental associations, the FDI has many important oral health initiatives. One of the top three is World Oral Health Day. This initiative was established five years ago and has become a real, positive celebration for the promotion of oral health, oral hygiene and good oral habits. Normally, dental caries, periodontal disease, malocclusion or even oral cancer do not make headlines; they are not fashionable . Dentistry, a combination of medicine and art, is still not recognized for the prevention of oral disease and the promotion of oral health, although these are proven, crucial factors for the general well-being of the population.

Another top initiative is the FDI’s Vision 2020, which has been one of the most important endeavors of the FDI in the past five years and aims to propose to the world a new definition of oral health. This definition now includes every aspect of life, such as talking, smiling, feeling, and living without pain, and it is related to emotional aspects as well. The new definition calls for new ways to measure oral disease. We have to avoid measuring dentistry by how many cavities a patient has. A friend of mine says that, in some parts of the world, dentistry is being taught using 19th-century protocols by 20th-century teachers to 21st-century students. We are now seeing a return to the basic principle that oral disease can—and should—be prevented. The promotion of oral health under Vision 2020 opens up the possibility of creating a new way to practice dentistry worldwide and of a new generation of people with a lower incidence of dental caries and periodontal disease. I think it is our responsibility to promote oral health, especially in vulnerable communities with no access to care and restricted access to toothpaste and toothbrushes, which are the basic tools of oral hygiene.

The relationship between the World Health Organization and the FDI policy statements prepared and reviewed by our standing committees is very important and my third significant health initiative. FDI policy statements can be used to influence governments for prevention and for promotion of oral health initiatives. Eventually, the public, our patients, benefit from this. For instance, it has been proved that there is a close link between the presence of periodontal disease and diabetes: in many cases, reducing periodontal disease helps some diabetes patients to control their sugar levels. This demonstrates the importance of further work to bring medicine and dentistry closer together.

One of the FDI’s greatest strengths is advocacy; the value of our policy statements on oral health is huge and they can be found on the FDI webpage in several languages. They have been used as guidelines for many countries and serve as a practical tool for dentists and national dental associations to help patients cope with the burden of oral disease.

What is your vision for the FDI?
The FDI is the leading voice of dentistry in the world and I can move the organization forward in this role. We can overcome the differences between rich and poor countries by applying leadership, creativity and passion. I have been in dentistry for 35 years. I am inspired by Sir Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, who said that we have to leave this world in a better shape than we found it. That is what I intend to do as President of the FDI. My motto is “From vision to action.” We have to work together and take the FDI from vision to action. We have to be ready to take risks, as I did in Mexico to pass the bill on mandatory daily brushing. In the past six years, the council, the executive committee and the head office staff have worked very hard to rebuild the credibility of the FDI inside and out; we have also re-established our monetary reserves, and now it is time to unleash all the potential of our strong organization.

What distinguishes you from the other candidates?
Five good reasons : leadership, creativity, commitment, teamwork and passion in everything I do. Everything I have accomplished in my 35 years in organized dentistry is testimony of these. I am a “doer” and when I started to promote the oral health law a year ago, in May 2016, many people said I was crazy, that it could never happen in Mexico. I was always convinced of the medium- and long-term benefits of such an initiative, and in the end, remaining tenacious paid off. If one wants exceptional results, one has to take risks. I believe in dreaming big and in making those dreams come true.

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