World Dental Federation (FDI) has published 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.
Oral healthcare contributes to the environmental burden through air pollution arising from the release of CO2associated with travel and transport, incineration of waste, lack of recyclable packaging, the greenhouse gas impact of anaesthetic gases such as nitrous oxide, and the high consumption of water.
Professor Ihsane Ben Yahya, FDI President and dean of the Faculty of Dentistry, Mohammed VI University of Health Sciences in Casablanca, commented on the Statement upon its publication: “It will come as a surprise to many people that the healthcare sector is responsible for around five per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, of which oral healthcare is an important contributor.
“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.”
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.
Whilst 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, arguing that it is best achieved through both the delivery and maintenance of good oral healthcare, focused on prevention with the promotion of good oral hygiene, healthy low-sugar diets, and avoiding tobacco.
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, added: “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.
“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.”
The Consensus Statement was unveiled at a special summit organised by the FDI on 30 March.