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Sustainability in dentistry

Environmental sustainability is an existential issue. That's why, we are working with key stakeholders to develop policy, and supporting dental practices to become more sustainable.

What's the issue?

The UK Climate Change Act 2008 impacts on the whole of the UK, despite the environment being a devolved responsibility for the four countries in the UK. It set out a challenge to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.

 

Dentistry is facing many challenges to help tackle the problem, particularly around decontamination, waste disposal and the use of single-use plastics. NHS dental services emissions make up 3% of the overall carbon footprint of the NHS.

 

The NHS has announced its vision to enable a Net Zero NHS by 2040, and an ambition to reach an 80% reduction of emissions directly under NHS control by 2028 to 2032. Many private practitioners have expressed an interest in reduction of emissions.

 

As a member of the World Dental Federation (FDI), whose statement on sustainability is a call to action for all dental associations, we’re taking the lead on sustainability on behalf of our members in private, NHS and mixed practice.

 

What are we doing?

Since 2018, we have been part of the Dental Sustainability Advisory Group (DSAG), run by the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare (CSH).

 

Our Education, Ethics and the Dental Team Working Group are investigating the issue of sustainability in UK dentistry.

 

Practical options

We are supporting dental practices to help implement practical ways of becoming more sustainable, within the confines of current health and safety legislation. Including, contributing to the CSH dental sustainability guide.

We are also working with Brett Duane, Associate Professor in Public Dental Health, Trinity College Dublin, to consider how sustainability can be put into practice, whilst ensuring dentists continue to uphold the highest standards in decontamination and protect patient safety.

 

Mercury and amalgam

Reducing mercury pollution from dentistry is one strand of DEFRA's 25-year environment plan, and we continue to work with national and international partners to ensure there is a gradual reduction in the use of dental amalgam, allowing for the best interest of patients and feasibility for UK dentistry. Preventing dental disease, and thereby reducing the need for any dental restorations, is key to this and to supporting sustainability more widely in dentistry.

 

What can you do?

Dentists can use the CSH's dental sustainability guide which is free to all dental practices and aims to provide a framework for the issues that dentistry can tackle. It focuses on travel, equipment (procurement), energy, waste, biodiversity and green space and measuring and embedding sustainability. 

 

You can also read the BDJ's collection of papers on sustainability in dentistry, and find out more from our library, which has useful information on the topic of sustainability in dentistry.

 

If you have any questions about our work on sustainability in dentistry, please get in touch with nicola.hawkey@bda.org in our Policy team.