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Article: Volume 48 Number 7 Page 524 - July/August 2021

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  Dental Update 491: 524-531

Sustainability/Oral Health:  Sustainable oral healthcare and the environment: mitigation strategies

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Abstract: Carbon emissions and single-use plastics (SUPs) are the main forms of environmental pollution relating to waste arising from oral healthcare. Ownership of this problem is shared with the whole supply chain, from manufacturing to distribution, procurement, clinical use and finally, waste management. Mitigation strategies focus on the individual stakeholders in the supply chain, including the provision of clinical care. Key to this is establishing a baseline analysis of the nature and the size of the problem through life cycle assessments (LCAs). Reduction of CO2 emissions, other associated environmental impacts and plastic waste is considered through remote clinical consultations, recycling, patient education and the provision of high-quality care to achieve high impact environmentally sustainable outcomes.

Clinical relevance: Environmentally sustainable oral healthcare requires the combined efforts of all stakeholders across the supply chain. The provision of good oral healthcare can deliver environmentally sustainable outcomes from a reduced need for interventions.

Author notes: Nicolas Martin, BDS, PhD, PgCertEd, MFDSRCS, FDSRCS, Professor of Restorative Dentistry, School of Clinical Dentistry, University of Sheffield. Lucy Smith, BEng (Hons), PhD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Sheffield. Steven Mulligan, BSc(Hons), BDS, MJDF RCS (Eng), Clinical Teacher, Doctoral Clinical Fellow, General Dental Practitioner, School of Clinical Dentistry, University of Sheffield. email:

Objective: To understand that environmentally sustainable oral healthcare is a team effort that can be achieved through the provision of good-quality patient-centred care and embracing effective complementary strategies.