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LONDON, UK: All industries are implicated in the need to reduce carbon emissions, and dentistry is no exception. A new student society at King’s College London’s Faculty of Dentistry, Oral and Craniofacial Sciences is dedicated to sustainable dentistry, and its founder says that incorporating the practice into dental curricula could increase environmental awareness in the profession.
World leaders are this week gathering in Glasgow for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), and climate activists have stressed that rhetoric must be replaced with action if a climate catastrophe is to be averted. According to King’s College London, its new King’s Innovative Sustainable Dentistry (KISD) student society—part of the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral and Craniofacial Sciences—has arrived with impeccable timing.
KISD was founded earlier this year and aims to foster a community where dental students can immerse themselves in the evolution of dental practice. Diana Dourou, a King’s dental student and the founder and president of KISD, said in a press release that dentistry can make a key contribution to the goals that are being discussed at COP26. “Considering the multisectoral nature of the dental profession, action can be taken amongst dental professionals and regulatory bodies, both at population and policy level, to contribute towards meeting the 2030 emissions reductions targets,” Dourou commented.
According to Dourou, dentistry’s impact on the environment is linked to the industry’s supply chain of materials and equipment and to the waste that dental products and consumables generate. Critically evaluating dental procedures and the use of materials and equipment that produce a high carbon footprint is crucial for reducing dentistry’s impact on the environment.
KISD maintains that dental students can assist in implementing sustainable initiatives and promoting sustainable practices at dental schools. Dourou explained that students are in the best position to use online green toolkits to supplement their learning and to deliver oral healthcare in a more sustainable way in clinics. She added: “Being more mindful of the volume of waste generated from individual clinical procedures, not only from the materials used, but also from the associated packaging, can lead to practising dentistry in a more conservative manner.”
“Introducing sustainable dentistry into dental curricula has the potential to help students critically appraise dental interventions”
KISD believes that sustainable principles need to be emphasised to the next generation of dentists so that they can incorporate the principles into their future daily practice.
“Introducing sustainable dentistry into dental curricula has the potential to help students critically appraise dental interventions with high carbon footprint and increase awareness of the environmental impact of the profession,” Dourou said.
Dental suppliers are also recognising the need for an increased focus on sustainability in the industry’s supply chain, and major supplier Henry Schein announced in October that it had committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.
Editorial note: Dental Tribune International is currently publishing a series of six articles by Singapore-based odontology specialist Dr Sanjay Haryana, titled “Sustainable dentistry in 500 words or more”. Part three of the series can be viewed here.