An estimated carbon footprint of NHS primary dental care within England. How can dentistry be more environmentally sustainable?

Key Points

  • Encourages readers to consider sustainability as part of their overall dental practice.

  • Helps readers understand their obligations to consider sustainability along with their other societal obligations.

  • Provides readers with a summary and description of carbon emissions originating from dentistry, with discussion on how these could be reduced.


Introduction National Health Service (NHS) England dental teams need to consider from a professional perspective how they can, along with their NHS colleagues, play their part in reducing their carbon emissions and improve the sustainability of the care they deliver. In order to help understand carbon emissions from dental services, Public Health England (PHE) commissioned a calculation and analysis of the carbon footprint of key dental procedures.

Methods Secondary data analysis from Business Services Authority (BSA), Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) (now called NHS Digital, Information Services Division [ISD]), National Association of Specialist Dental Accountants (NASDA) and recent Scottish papers was undertaken using a process-based and environmental input-output analysis using industry established conversion factors.

Results The carbon footprint of the NHS dental service is 675 kilotonnes carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e). Examinations contributed the highest proportion to this footprint (27.1%) followed by scale and polish (13.4%) and amalgam/composite restorations (19.3%). From an emissions perspective, nearly 2/3 (64.5%) of emissions related to travel (staff and patient travel), 19% procurement (the products and services dental clinics buy) and 15.3% related to energy use.

Discussion The results are estimates of carbon emissions based on a number of broad assumptions. More research, education and awareness is needed to help dentistry develop low carbon patient pathways.

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Duane, B., Lee, M., White, S. et al. An estimated carbon footprint of NHS primary dental care within England. How can dentistry be more environmentally sustainable?. Br Dent J 223, 589–593 (2017).

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