This fall I had the opportunity to represent the American Dental Association at the 2013 FDI Congress in Istanbul, Turkey. The FDI World Dental Federation, established in Paris in 1900 as the Federation Dentaire Internationale, serves as the principal representative body for more than one million dentists worldwide. Its membership includes approximately 200 national member associations and specialty groups from more than 150 countries. FDI is a global player, developing health policy and continuing education programs, speaking as a unified voice for dentistry in international advocacy, and supporting member associations in oral health promotional activities. A non-governmental organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, FDI is governed by General Assembly, with policy enacted by its Council and activities implemented through five standing committees comprised of 60 volunteers from among its national member associations. Every year some 300 delegates attend FDI’s World Dental Congress to debate and define the future of dentistry around the world.
The theme of this year’s Congress was “Bridging Continents for Global Oral Health”. Istanbul was a perfect setting, as the city bridges two continents - Europe and Asia - at the beautiful Bosphorus River connecting the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmora. As a freshman ADA trustee and a first-year attendee of the FDI Congress, I went with an open notebook and mind. I felt well prepared for the discussions and issues with the advance material supplied by ADA staff and the ADA/FDI delegation members.
As a delegation representing the USA, we had many key issues to discuss. Among them was the adoption of five FDI policy statements.
1. Non-communicable Diseases.
2. Oral Health and Social Determinants of Health.
3. Oral Infection/Inflammation as a Risk Factor for Systemic Diseases.
4. Salivary Diagnostics.
5. Bisphenol-A in Dental Restorative and Preventive Materials.
There were as well the following topics on the agenda:
• An Istanbul Declaration on Oral Health. The importance of oral health into the general health of the population and the increasing role of the dentist in general health.
• World Oral Health Day: March 20 of every year.
• The World Health Organization (WHO) maintaining a definite oral health division, with a professional representative in a leadership role.
• From the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP): The decision to phase down, not phase out, dental amalgam.
• Drug shortages throughout the world.
• FDI Vision 2020 on how the dental profession should evolve and adapt over the next decade.
• Strategy for Africa.
• Promotion of oral health through the use of fluoride.
I was introduced to and had lively discussions with many fellow dentists in the FDI Congress representing 150 countries around the world. Everyone at the Assembly had one common vision of leading the world to optimal oral health. The FDI World Dental Federation brings together the collective expertise of its member associations and all oral health stakeholders worldwide. I was able to learn the governance structure of the FDI, and helped the ADA support two ADA candidates for positions of leadership in the FDI. Dr. Kathy Roth was successful in her campaign and election as an FDI Councilor. Dr. Sally Hewett was re-elected for another three-year term on the FDI Education Committee. Helping to “campaign” for Kathy and Sally throughout the week-long Congress gave me an additional avenue to introduce myself as a member of the ADA and a delegation member to hundreds of dentists from 150 other countries.
Apart from the formal FDI Congress Assemblies, several break-out classes and forums were offered, with information and discussions concerning oral health prevention and education, the environment, and Public Health issues. We had special assignments to attend, participate, and report back to our delegation information gained from these forums. An example of one symposium I attended was a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Chris Fox, the executive director of the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) and four professors from throughout the world who talked about the future of dental restorations. A “phase down/not a phase out” of dental amalgam as a result of a January 2013 UNEP Summit and the global, legally binding treaty on mercury, alled the Minamata Convention, was heavily discussed by the expert panel. The treaty is an agreement containing provisions for the reduction of dental amalgam, including setting national objectives aiming at dental caries prevention and oral health promotion, promoting research and development of alternative restorative material, and promoting the use of best environmental practices in dental facilities. Without involvement of the FDI and representatives from the ADA testifying at this UNEP meeting, dentists throughout the world would not have the ability to use dental amalgam as a restorative option today.
As a delegation, the ADA was able to meet with other international delegates both formally and informally at luncheons and evening receptions to discuss common problems. One interesting opportunity I attended was a luncheon with the Japanese dental delegation. We shared common problems of oral health in our aging populations. My misconception was that the Japanese continue to care for their elderly as a part of an extended family model. With more dependence upon extended care facilities and nursing homes, the Japanese elderly are not receiving the dental care that is needed. Out of this sharing of like problems the ADA was invited to participate in an upcoming forum on geriatric dentistry hosted by Japan in 2015.
After spending a week at the 2013 FDI Istanbul meeting, filling my notebook and mind with many international issues, I see a definite need to continue the ADA’s involvement in the FDI World Dental Federation. The FDI works as a facilitator and convener for dental organizations and dentists worldwide. We need this vehicle to bring countries, governmental organizations, educational institutions, experts in dental research, and representatives from dental manufacturing and industry together for one common goal of promoting excellent oral health throughout the world.
I thank you for this opportunity and experience to promote oral health throughout the world and represent the American Dental Association.
Following the FDI Congress, Sonja and I joined a tour group and saw three other parts of Turkey. We went to the Central Region of Turkey (Cappadocia) and the Aegean Sea Area (Ephesus and Bodrum). We were amazed and overwhelmed by all the ancient and religious history of Turkey.
*Dr. Zenk is the Trustee to the Tenth District of the American Dental Association, representing Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. He is a general dentist in Montevideo, Minnesota. Email is firstname.lastname@example.org