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GENEVA, Switzerland: Oral diseases affect approximately half of the world’s population, and oral healthcare greatly contributes to climate change. Seeking to help the oral healthcare sector move towards more sustainable practices, FDI World Dental Federation (FDI) has recently launched a consensus statement on environmentally sustainable oral healthcare. The consensus statement aims to raise awareness of sustainability in the industry and the profession and to help dentistry to reduce its carbon footprint.
To mitigate climate change, unsustainable practices should be reduced to a minimum. The oral healthcare supply chain, which includes the manufacturing industry, distribution, the care professions and waste management, has enormous potential to substantially decrease dentistry’s carbon footprint and help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions worldwide.
Unfortunately, numerous stakeholders are still unaware of the impact that dentistry has on the environment. The consensus statement reads: “Knowledge of the impact of oral healthcare on the environment is not uniform, with significant awareness among manufacturers but relatively little insight from end users including oral healthcare professionals, patients, and consumers.”
Therefore, the consensus statement, which was released at a summit organised by FDI that included academic experts, legislative authorities and dental associations, aims to educate all participants in the supply chain on matters that pertain to sustainability, to promote relevant research on the topic, to minimise the environmental impact of oral healthcare and to seek environmentally sustainable solutions in dentistry.
“The dental industry has a collective responsibility to reduce its environmental impact”
— Prof. Ihsane Ben Yahya, FDI president
“It will come as a surprise to many people that the healthcare sector is responsible for around 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, of which oral healthcare is an important contributor,” Prof. Ihsane Ben Yahya, FDI president and dean of the Faculty of Dentistry at Mohammed VI University of Health Sciences in Casablanca in Morocco, said in a press release.
“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,” she continued.
According to Prof. Yahya, the joint statement reflects the growing recognition of the importance of sustainable practice within the oral healthcare community. “Healthier mouths mean a healthier planet,” she explained.
Reducing the impact of oral health on the environment
According to the consensus statement, oral healthcare generates a large amount of carbon dioxide through travel and transport, waste incineration, lack of recyclable packaging, use of anaesthetic gases such as nitrous oxide and high water consumption.
To reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the FDI consensus panel recommends that the dental industry and the profession base their behaviour and practices on the four Rs—reduce, recycle, reuse and rethink. Additionally, they believe that it is vital to highlight the importance of maintaining good oral health and focusing on prevention to reduce the need for operative treatment.
Prof. Nicolas Martin, chair of the FDI Sustainability in Dentistry Task Team, explained in the press release: “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.”
He concluded: “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.”
More information about the consensus statement can be found here.