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Environmentally sustainable dentistry: a brief introduction to sustainable concepts within the dental practice

This paper introduces clinicians to sustainability as it relates to dentistry. There are seven papers in the series. These include this introduction, followed by papers on energy, procurement, travel, waste, biodiversity and engagement and embedding sustainability into current dental practice. A sustainable world aims to ensure the basic needs and quality of life of everyone are met, now and for future generations. The current delivery of healthcare in the modern world is not sustainable due to rising financial costs, increasing demands and a high environmental burden. Dentists, like their medical counterparts, need to consider the General Dental Council (GDC) standards and the relationship between planetary health and human health within their practice. There is increasing awareness of the problems associated with global warming but a lack of knowledge on how to become more environmentally sustainable. There are also financial and reputational benefits to becoming more sustainable for practices. The carbon footprint is one proxy of sustainability and is closely related to expenditure. In 2014-2015, the carbon footprint of dentistry was calculated to be 675 kilotonnes carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) with 64.5% related to travel, 15.3% from energy and 19% from procurement. The GDC should consider incorporating sustainability education into the undergraduate framework in line with student demands and similar moves by the General Medical Council.

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Correspondence to Brett Duane.

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Duane, B., Harford, S., Ramasubbu, D. et al. Environmentally sustainable dentistry: a brief introduction to sustainable concepts within the dental practice. Br Dent J 226, 292–295 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41415-019-0010-7

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Key Points

  • Highlights how sustainability ensures the basic needs and quality of life of everyone are met
  • now and for future generations.
  • Describes why sustainability in dentistry needs to be considered for planetary health
  • personal health
  • financial health and practice reputation.
  • Suggests there is a lack of awareness in the dental team on how to become more sustainable.

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