Thinking globally, acting locally

29 November 2017

It is a truism that the challenges we face in dentistry transcend borders and that solving global problems requires global solutions. My travels in November - to the tremendously successful annual meetings of the German Dental Association (Bundeszahnärztekammer – BZÄK) and the Portuguese Dental Association (Ordem dos Médicos Dentistas - OMD) respectively, and to FDI’s headquarters in Geneva - not only reaffirmed this premise but also reinforced my confidence that the international dental community is well equipped to embrace the challenges of the future.

After all, the issues affecting our German and Portuguese colleagues are invariably the same issues that our members all around the world are grappling with; be it concerns over regulation, accreditation, migration, or the disruptive nature of technology. And that is why FDI’s guiding ethos about fostering a spirit of innovation, collaboration, and knowledge transfer is truly global in its reach. I hope that you will find this month’s presidential update both enlightening and uplifting in equal measure.

German lessons

This month, I was privileged to attend the annual meeting of German Dental Days in Frankfurt, Germany. Held at the Messe Congress Center, German Dental Days is organized by BZÄK. It is the only nationwide event where German dentists, policymakers, allied health professionals, and dental students can meet and exchange ideas.

This year’s event comprised of a series of special presentations and education sessions: over 200 experts from Germany and abroad contributed as speakers on the practice and science of dentistry. BZÄK President Dr Peter Engel convened proceedings and later hosted a large reception for the international guests in attendance. It was heartening to see how many familiar members from FDI’s European Regional Organization (ERO) had made the journey to Frankfurt, including ERO’s President, Dr Anna Lella, alongside FDI’s President-Elect Dr Gerhard Seeberger, and FDI Council members Dr Edoardo Cavallè and Dr Nikolai Sharkov.

Annual meeting of German Dental Days in Frankfurt, Germany

A particularly memorable highlight of the event was a presentation delivered by Dr Horst Opaschowski, a renowned futurist and top-level policy advisor from the eponymous Opaschowski Institute for Future Research. Widely known in Germany simply as ‘Mr Future’, the theme of Dr Opaschowski’s address was ‘Vision Germany: How we will live and work tomorrow’. Perhaps not surprisingly for a futurist, he discussed how digitization is affecting our world and opined about some of the changes we will encounter in the not too distant future. It was a timely reminder that although the digital era has already revolutionized the dental profession, we are only in the embryonic stages of a secular trend whereby technological disruption will bring its own discrete opportunities and challenges.

The next day, the ongoing theme of disruption was also echoed at the General Assembly (GA) for BAZÄK. In his powerful keynote address - attended by several hundred BZÄK members from 17 districts within Germany - Dr Engel gave a comprehensive overview of the issues affecting quality of care in Germany, including government regulations, education and accreditation, the advent of corporate dentistry and non-dental ownership of practices, the regulation of auxiliaries, data collection, economic pressures to decrease quality and prices, and the impact of widespread immigration.

These concerns were also shared by President of the Council of European Dentists Dr Marco Landi, who I met at the GA. Together, we discussed many pressing regulatory issues in Europe and the world. Dr Landi had recently attended the fifth annual International Conference of Dental Regulators, organized by the International Society of Dental Regulators (ISDR), in London and expertly briefed me on the agenda issues. I encourage all our members to visit ISDR’s website and read more about the important work they are doing to support dental regulatory bodies around the world.

Dr Landi also remarked that one of the emergent issues facing the European dental community is how to handle the migration of dentists and their freedom of movement within the European Union (EU). Brexit has only injected further uncertainty into the debate as many non-EU dentists who have immigrated to the United Kingdom (UK) are now positioning themselves to move to the EU if, or when, Brexit becomes a reality. How the EU dental community will absorb the expected influx of dentists from the UK remains an open question that will be litigated in the years ahead; but it will doubtlessly require increased vigilance and innovation from regulators and policymakers alike.

Ultimately, the programme concluded with an evening at the stunning Electoral Palace in nearby Mainz. While enjoying its Renaissance splendour, I took the opportunity to thank Dr Engel and all the members of BZÄK for a highly successful meeting. The ever-increasing popularity of German Dental Days is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and vision of BZÄK who put together a truly outstanding event.

Visiting HQ

Leaving behind the bustle of Frankfurt, I made the short flight across to Geneva, Switzerland for my first FDI Executive Council (EXCO) meeting since becoming FDI President. Despite only being in Geneva for a few days, we set an ambitious agenda. We achieved significant progress on numerous fronts, including for World Oral Health Day 2018 - the benefits of which will be seen in the coming months as our planning and implementation drive kicks into high gear.

FDI ExCo November meeting in Geneva, Switzerland

On a personal level, the EXCO meeting was a valuable opportunity to acknowledge some recent changes at FDI. We welcomed Dr Susie Sanderson OBE, who was elected as the new Speaker of FDI’s GA. And we paid tribute to FDI Immediate Past President Dr Patrick Hescot (2015-2017). Dr Hescot’s achievements at FDI have been nothing short of remarkable. Without his strong leadership, FDI would simply not be where it is today. I feel privileged and inspired to be a custodian of Dr Hescot’s legacy at FDI as we continue our collective mission of leading the world to optimal oral health.

Lisbon calling

Dr Kathryn Kell at OMD 2017 Congress in Lisbon, Portugal

After my brief sojourn in Geneva, I travelled to Lisbon, Portugal for the 26th OMD Congress. Much like the warm climate, this year’s OMD Congress was itself a major attraction. There was a large contingent of expert speakers from around the world who gathered to attend. As expected, the congress proved to be an invaluable opportunity to network. I liaised with Associação Paulista de Cirurgiões Dentistas (Paulista Association of Dental Surgeons - APCD) President Dr Wilson Chediek about the upcoming 36th CIOSP International Dental Meeting in São Paolo, Brazil and the next FDI World Dental Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

An unorthodox addition to the congress was a room dedicated to displaying the talents of member dentists in other areas besides healthcare and science. This included a presentation by a dentist who sings Fado (a wistful form of traditional Portuguese folk music), alongside dentists who were also skilled photographers, sculptors, and a variety of other talents. The display area was strategically positioned so attendees had to go through the Exhibit Hall en route to all the other events; so you couldn’t help but notice it. It was certainly a refreshing change from what we were accustomed to; it was amazing to see the hidden artistic talents of so many dentists.

At the opening ceremony, I gave a brief opening address on behalf of FDI. It was a pleasure to be welcomed by President of the OMD Congress (and FDI Past President 2011-2013) Orlando Monteiro da Silva, and the members of his organizing committee who I commended on doing such a terrific job. I also enjoyed meeting with Portugal’s Minister of Economy Manuel Caldeira Cabral and Secretary of State Assistant and of Health Fernando Araújo. They confirmed my initial impressions about how OMD maintains an excellent relationship with the respective government agencies. The depth of cooperation between OMD and the Portuguese government is something that many other countries should strive to learn lessons from and replicate.

I left Portugal with many fond memories of the place and its people. Congratulations to OMD for organizing such a wonderful annual congress. And a special thank you to Dr Orlando Monteiro da Silva - for your inspired leadership and all you have done, and continue to do for the FDI family.

Global periodontal health

WOHF 2017

Periodontal diseases represent a major burden and public health challenge worldwide. To address this epidemic, FDI has made global periodontal health a priority through the Global Periodontal Health Project (GPHP). To advance the work of the GPHP, the World Oral Health Forum (WOHF), held during the World Dental Congress in Madrid in 2017, was dedicated to periodontal health. Over the course of three panel sessions, the WOHF took an in-depth look at the current evidence, trends, and challenges for periodontal health and diseases. The full WOHF 2017 Proceedings can now be accessed as well as the webcast of the full event. This year’s WOHF served as important opportunity to review and set priorities for the GPHP, and its discussions will help shape the upcoming FDI white paper on periodontal diseases which will be released in early 2018.

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