It began with Dr Charles Gonod, a true visionary and internationalist, who founded FDI—la Fédération Dentaire Internationale—in Paris in the year 1900.
Exactly one hundred years later, FDI held its Annual World Dental Congress in the same city, ably hosted by the French Dental Association, where delegates were warmly received by then FDI President, the late Dr Jacques Monnot, like me, a former President of the French Dental Association.
Working in concert over the past two years, the Executive Committee and Council have succeeded in restoring FDI to its rightful place as global leader in dentistry and oral health. We are now in a position to move onwards and upwards towards a bright and productive future. My goal during the next two years is to lead FDI into a new era of strengthened relevance and influence as the authentic voice of international dentistry.
Working on behalf of members
We need to always keep in mind that FDI is a federation of member associations: it is primarily funded by membership fees, it acts at all times on behalf of its members and it exists because its members are attached to the objectives and values it represents. Backed by the one million-plus dentists comprising the membership of national dental associations and specialist groups, FDI has a strong claim to be the voice of dentistry worldwide.
It is, however, the ‘voice’ of dentistry only insofar as it has an ear to what its members are saying. One of my key objectives will therefore be to radically strengthen communications between FDI and its members to, on the one hand, keep them continually updated on what FDI is doing on their behalf and, on the other, to give due value to the work of each member association at national and regional level.
A focus on advocacy
Advocacy is central to FDI’s work: good oral health is a fundamental right and it is our duty to ensure the voice of the world’s dentists is heard by the international community, civil society, national governments and individuals.
Today is a turning point: regardless of the socio-economic costs of oral disease, oral health is not perceived as important – and we need to change that. We need to move away from the image of the ‘super-technician’ and re-position the dentist as a fully-fledged medical professional with a central role in oral health, hence general health, and a major force in the wellbeing of the individual and society as a whole 1
. My goal will be to return oral health to its rightful place in medicine in particular and in life in general.
Our relations with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other agencies of the United Nations are key to keeping oral health high on the international public health agenda. We have already played an advisory role and can boast a significant contribution in a number of oral-health related initiatives. We intend to pursue and intensify our international work.
However, we are not looking just to be on the agenda: we want to achieve concrete government-led action. We can only do this by working hand-in-hand with our member national dental associations, providing them support for their activities and the means to fulfil their and our ambitions in health and oral health policy.
A strong FDI
To get to where we want to be, we need to rebuild a strong FDI: the turnaround is already well underway and my personal goal is to pursue that turnaround with energy and vigour. Only then will we have the means to fulfil our ambitions in their entirety. At FDI, we can be proud of who we are: a single federation, enriched by a wide variety of social-cultural, ethnic and economic differences but united in the goal of bringing the message of oral health and its place in society to governments, the media and individuals worldwide.
In the pursuit of these ambitions, I know that I can count on members of the Council working together efficiently and in concert towards common objectives as well as the support of the talented and motivated team in our Geneva office.
1 The dentist is a little like the sentinel at the door of the human citadel, part of its defence with physicians and surgeons; often it is he who sounds the first alarm that the whole organism is in danger. He protects the region he is charged to guard against disease. If it is destroyed, he restores it and re-establishes it to such a degree as to restore a physiological function believed lost.
FDI founder Charles Godon, address to the Third International Dental Congress, Paris 1900