Baird, H.M., Mulligan, S., Webb, T.L., Baker, S.R. and Martin, N., 2022. Exploring attitudes towards more sustainable dentistry among adults living in the UK. British Dental Journal, 233(4), pp.333-342
The nature of the resource-intensiveness of dentistry as a field presents significant impact on the environment. It is reported that dental services operated by the NHS in England produced around 675 kilostones of greenhouse gas emissions. As highlighted by recent global events, the impact of the climate emergency on human health is substantial. Previous research investigating sustainability in dentistry has mainly focused on the role of healthcare providers, with no research considering the public’s attitudes towards sustainability in dentistry. The NHS is legally required to reduce its greenhouse emissions by 80% by 2050, which was recently revised to achieving a net zero. As the public’s attitudes and pressure can be a significant driver of change, highlighting the need to explore those attitudes within the field of sustainability in dentistry is important in moving towards achieving the net zero target.
The present research:
The aim of this study was to ‘explore attitudes towards sustainable dentistry among adults living in the UK and their willingness to make compromises in order to reduce the impact of their dental treatments on the environment.’ The research also considered a number of trade-offs related to sustainable practices in dentistry. These trade-offs included time, convenience, money, health, functionality and aesthetics. For example, participants were asked if they would be willing to compromise their time to reduce waste generated, if an environmental assessment revealed single-use plastics to have more harm than use of sterilised equipment, which will require more time in the chair.
An online questionnaire was completed by 344 adults living in the UK. The questionnaire measured willingness to reduce impact of dental treatment on the environment through making compromises, general willingness to make compromises for environmental reasons, pro-environmental concern and identity, and tendency to engage in ecological behaviours. There were two versions of the questionnaire, a short version assessing only measures of attitudes towards sustainability in dentistry, and a full version assessing all aforementioned measures. The results were analysed through descriptive statistics at the first stage and through statistical tests at the second stage.
The results in this paper were divided into these two sections:
‘To what extent do participants have positive attitudes towards sustainable dentistry and are willing to make compromises to achieve it?’
Overall, relatively positive attitudes were reported towards sustainability in dentistry, along with moderate willingness to compromise time and convenience, durability of dental treatments, and possible increased cost. Less willingness was reported to compromises on health or appearance of teeth. All compromises were statistically significant except possible increased costs and durability of dental treatments.
‘Factors associated with participants’ attitudes towards, and willingness to make compromises for, sustainable dentistry’
Some of the main findings of this section are summarised below in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Mind-map of various factors associated with attitudes towards sustainable dentistry and willingness to make compromises for sustainable dentistry, own figure, results from Baird et al., (2022).
With the idea that public pressure can be a significant driver of change, the findings of this study provide an understanding to the compromises members of the public are willing to make and accept to improve sustainability in dentistry. The findings also provide a useful insight into factors that might change the attitudes and willingness to make compromises towards more sustainable practises in dentistry, with people’s current health playing a role in this.
Research Summary Written By: Haleema Rabeea – Barts and the London, Queen Mary, BDS 5