30 March 2022

Sheffield dentists help pave the way for sustainable oral healthcare

Dentists from the University of Sheffield are helping the oral healthcare sector move towards more environmentally friendly practices that will reduce the carbon footprint of the profession.

Female Dentist and young patient
Female dentist
  • Researchers from the University of Sheffield’s School of Clinical Dentistry have helped establish the FDI World Dental Federation’s (FDI) inaugural Consensus Statement on Environmentally Sustainable Oral Healthcare
  • The pioneering initiative aims to move the oral healthcare sector towards more environmentally friendly practices that will reduce the carbon footprint of the profession
  • Oral healthcare contributes to the environmental burden through air pollution arising from the release of CO2 associated 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
  • The healthcare sector is responsible for around five per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, of which oral healthcare is an important contributor

Dentists from the University of Sheffield are helping the oral healthcare sector move towards more environmentally friendly practices that will reduce the carbon footprint of the profession.

Research conducted at the University’s School of Clinical Dentistry has supported the FDI World Dental Federation’s (FDI) inaugural Consensus Statement on Environmentally Sustainable Oral Health, which will pave the way for an industry Code of Good Practice.

Professor Nicolas Martin, Clinical Professor in Restorative Dentistry in the University’s School of Clinical Dentistry is Chair of the FDI Sustainability in Dentistry Task Team. Professor Martin and his team have been integral to the pioneering initiative launched today (30 March 2022) at an international summit.

Oral healthcare contributes to the environmental burden through air pollution arising from the release of CO2 associated 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.

The Consensus Statement, which is the first of its kind, 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 also 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 minimizing “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 avoidance of tobacco.

“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,

Professor Nicolas Martin

Clinical Professor in Restorative Dentistry, University of Sheffield

“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 is supported by a concise commentary Sustainable Oral Healthcare – A Joint Stakeholder Approach published in the International Dental Journal.

Professor Ihsane Ben Yahya, FDI President and Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry, Mohammed VI University of Health Sciences, Casablanca, Morocco, said: “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 project is supported by founding partners: Colgate, GSK Consumer Healthcare, Dentsply Sirona, Procter & Gamble and TePe.

For more information visit: https://www.fdiworlddental.org/sustainability-dentistry

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