Leading for change: sustainability review published

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, prescribing, procurement, education and regulation, and makes recommendations for change that can be undertaken by each part of the system. It also presents case studies of exemplar efforts made to address the environmental impact of dental care and oral health services, and includes suggestions for further reading.

The review was written by a team of eight Clinical Fellows working at national dental organisations as part of the Chief Dental Officer for England’s Clinical Leadership Scheme, with input from expert contributors from academia, dental practice and government organisations.

Produced with the support of the Office of the Chief Dental Officer for England and the College of General Dentistry, it aims to inspire positive change by all those involved in the provision of oral healthcare related products, services and policy.

On behalf of the authors, Amarantha Fennell-Wells, Senior Clinical Policy Manager at the Office of the Chief Dental Officer England, said:

“Dental care creates a significant carbon footprint, and we owe it to current and future generations to contribute to emissions reduction by making our dental practice as environmentally sustainable as possible. Each practice and all staff can play their part in delivering sustainability in dentistry, and our review synthesises information which we hope will be educational and inspiring of collaboration to achieve a more sustainable future for the profession and dental patients.”

The document is freely available to download via a new College webpage which signposts a selection of free e-learning resources, guidelines and other tools which dental practitioners and practices can use to understand and reduce their environmental impact.

New sustainable dentistry resources hub

The College has published a new webpage bringing together resources which dental practitioners and practices can use to understand and reduce their environmental impact.

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.

Last year, the College co-hosted the webinar Sustainability in dentistry and healthcare, which looked at the effect of healthcare on climate change and discussed some of the practical aspects relevant to general dental practice. The recording is available free of charge to College members and provides 2¼ hours of certified CPD. 

Professor Paul Batchelor FCGDent, Dental Group Chair at the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, also published the blog Sustainability: what is it and how can the dental sector contribute? on the College website, and recently delivered a College lecture on sustainability in dentistry.

In recent years, a number of organisations have developed free materials to support greater sustainability in dentistry, and the new webpage has been created to act as a hub with descriptions and links to a selection of resources encompassing learning, guidelines and tools for the practical implementation of change.

For those looking for an introduction to the topic, the page includes a link to NHS England’s e-Learning for Health Environmental sustainability in dentistry module, which takes only around 30 minutes to complete.

For those ready for further exploration, a link is provided to the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare’s How to Guide for Dental Practices. This includes sections on travel, equipment and supplies, energy, waste, biodiversity and green space, and measuring and embedding sustainability, as well as modelled examples and consideration of the ease and costs of implementation and the financial return on investment.

Similarly Green Impact, a UNESCO-recognised organisation working with the NHS, has developed an online toolkit which offers wide-ranging information and practical advice that dental teams can implement. NHS-contracted dental practices throughout the UK which are committed to implementing change can access support through Green Impact to achieve their sustainability objectives, and can choose to work towards bronze, silver or gold level accreditation. Registration links are provided on the new webpage.

The page also includes a link to the Clinical guidelines for environmental sustainability in dentistry, which were produced by Trinity College Dublin in collaboration with the Office of the Chief Dental Officer for England earlier this year, and Sustainability in dentistry: Leading for change, a review which makes recommendations for change in each part of the dental system.