Environmental sustainability in dentistry
Sustainability has been defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, and for dental practices, this means minimising adverse effects on the environment and helping to conserve natural resources.
While this encompasses a wide range of factors, carbon emissions are a critical component, and with the UK government committed to reaching ‘net zero’ by 2050, NHS-contracted practices in England should be aware that since April 2023, every Integrated Care System now has a Green Plan as part of the NHS’s own net zero commitment.
In recent years, a number of organisations have developed materials to support greater sustainability in dentistry, and the College has brought a number of them together on this page to encourage dental practice teams to understand and reduce their impact on the environment, and to play their part in responding to the climate crisis.
NHS England’s e-Learning for Health Environmental sustainability in dentistry module provides a 30-minute introduction to the subject matter and includes practical examples.
Freely available to all dental professionals, those not already registered to use e-Learning for Health will first need to create an account.
The recorded webinar Sustainability in dentistry and healthcare, co-hosted by the College in 2022, looked at the effect of healthcare on climate change and discussed some of the practical aspects relevant to general dental practice.
It provides 2¼ hours of certified CPD and is available free of charge to College members, with a small fee applying to non-members.
The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare’s How to Guide for Dental Practices provides a more detailed exploration covering travel, equipment and supplies, energy, waste, biodiversity and green space, and measuring and embedding sustainability.
With modelled examples throughout, consideration is also given in relation to each suggested action to the ease and costs of implementation and the financial return on investment.
The Clinical guidelines for environmental sustainability in dentistry, which aim to give staff working in dentistry a better understanding of how to make services more environmentally sustainable, were produced by Trinity College Dublin in collaboration with the Office of the Chief Dental Officer for England earlier this year.
Toolkit & accreditation
Green Impact, a UNESCO-recognised organisation working with the NHS, has developed an online toolkit for dental practices committed to improving their sustainability and social responsibility, offering wide-ranging information as well as practical advice that teams can implement.
Dental practices using the toolkit can access support to achieve their sustainability objectives and can choose to work towards bronze, silver or gold level accreditation. Registration is free of charge to NHS-contracted practices throughout the UK.
Sustainability in dentistry: Leading for change is a scoping review to inform and engage the dental profession, dental industry, and wider oral health and dental care infrastructure on the environmental sustainability of practicing dentistry.
Organised thematically, it provides an in-depth exploration of wide-ranging aspects of the sustainability of clinical practice such as legislation, health service emissions targets, prescribing, procurement, education and regulation, and makes recommendations for change that can be undertaken by each part of the system.
Relevant CGDent events, news and blogs are detailed below.
The College has published Sustainability in dentistry: Leading for change, a scoping review to inform and engage the dental profession, industry, and wider oral health and dental care infrastructure on the environmental sustainability of practicing dentistry. With the sub-title Environmentally sustainable dentistry to address the climate crisis, the review is organised thematically to provide an in-depth exploration of a wide range of factors such as legislation, health service emissions targets,…
Professor Paul Batchelor FCGDent, Associate and Dental Group Chair at the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, explores the issue of sustainability in dentistry and what practices…