The global state of organized dentistry: Interview with FDI President Dr. Kathryn Kell and 3M Oral Care President James Ingebrand

At the 2017 Greater New York Dental Meeting, we caught up with FDI President Dr. Kathryn Kell as she visited 3M Oral Care, who is partnering with FDI on a new oral-health initiative in China. Dr. Kell and 3M Oral Care’s Jim Ingebrand answered our questions about the state of global dentistry, FDI’s current challenges, industry partnership, and how dentists can get involved in the global advancement of oral health.

Feb 14th, 2018
Content Dam De En Articles Print Volume 108 Issue 2 Macroeconomics The Global State Of Organized Dentistry Interview With Fdi President Dr Kathryn Kell And 3m Oral Care President James Ingebrand Leftcolumn Article Thumbnailimage File

Zachary Kulsrud
Managing Editor

At the center of dentistry’s global efforts in organized dentistry is FDI World Dental Federation (FDI). Founded in Paris in 1900, FDI has blossomed into the largest membership-based dental organization in the world.

FDI’s new president, Kathryn Kell, DDS, hails from Davenport, Iowa. Dr. Kell assumed the FDI presidency in August 2017 and will serve a two-year term. At the 2017 Greater New York Dental Meeting, we had the opportunity to catch up with Dr. Kell as she visited 3M Oral Care, who is partnering with FDI on a new oral health initiative in China. Dr. Kell and 3M Oral Care President and General Manager Jim Ingebrand answered our questions about the state of global dentistry, FDI’s current challenges, FDI-industry partnership, and how dentists can get involved in the global advancement of oral health.

3M Oral Care President and General Manager Jim Ingebrand and FDI President Dr. Kathryn Kell at the 2017 Greater New York Dental Meeting. 3M Oral Care recently partnered with FDI to bring the organization's Smile Around the World initiative to Western China.

For those dentists and industry members who don’t know, can you tell us about the role FDI plays in the global practice and organization of dentistry?

Dr. Kell: FDI is an international, membership-based organization that serves as the principal representative body for more than one million dentists worldwide, and it’s active in 200 National Dental Associations (NDAs) and specialist groups in more than 130 countries. To advance the art, science, and practice of dentistry, we work together with our member NDAs, industry partners, and other stakeholders to deliver innovative campaigns and projects aligned with our vision to lead the world to optimal oral health. We’re committed to providing quality continuing education and training programs to oral health professionals.

Tell us about your own background and involvement in FDI. How did you come to be a part of the organization, and what skills and personal interests do you bring to the organization’s leadership?

Dr. Kell: I first became involved in FDI 20 years ago when I joined FDI’s Congress and Education Committee. Over the years, I’ve learned that only by working together and having policies of inclusion for all people, countries, and backgrounds can we accomplish our goal of optimal oral health for all. Our national member dental associations are our most important asset in this regard. My goal as FDI president is to collaborate closely with our members to further our vision as one. We must also allocate resources to our members to develop projects to increase oral health outcomes wherever possible. Working together is the only way we will tackle the global burden of oral diseases, which affect 3.9 billion people worldwide. Furthermore, nearly 100% of adults have dental cavities.

From a global perspective, what are some of the major trends you’re seeing in dentistry that practitioners and members of the dental industry should be alert to?

Dr. Kell: A major development in the practice of dentistry is the recent Minamata Convention on Mercury, which entered into force in August 2017. FDI was actively involved in the first Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP1) in September 2017 to discuss its implementation. The Convention is extremely relevant to the dental profession, as it contains provisions on dental amalgam—a mercury-added product containing 50% mercury. It has been used as a dental restorative material to treat cavities for more than 150 years worldwide. Dental amalgam is the only mercury-added product subject to a phase-down in the Convention, and dental professionals living in a country that has ratified the Convention need to be aware of the direct impact this will have on their profession. To date, 83 countries have ratified the convention. NDAs, their partners, and individual dental professionals are instrumental to ensure the mercury phase-down is achieved.

You’re here today with 3M’s Jim Ingebrand. How do FDI and the dental industry work together?

Dr. Kell: We work with partners on a wide range of projects and programs to promote oral health, prevention, and dental care around the world.

A key event that FDI spearheads in collaboration with industry partners is World Oral Health Day. It is the largest international campaign on oral health and takes place each year on March 20. Another multipartnership collaboration is Vision 2020, which carries out FDI’s advocacy strategy on the national and global levels to raise awareness of oral health challenges, advance integration of oral health into general health policies, and address oral-health inequalities.

The Smile Around the World initiative is a prime example of FDI and industry collaboration. Smile Around the World promotes oral health and disease prevention among children with limited access to oral health care. We are thrilled to announce that Smile Around the World will be implemented in China in early 2018 thanks to the generous support from our industry partner 3M. The initiative aims to raise oral health awareness among 3,000 children in three provinces in Western China where there is a demonstrated need to improve oral health.

Ingebrand: 3M and the FDI have a great partnership. We approach oral health from two lenses, but they are complimentary and our goal of improving lives is the same. From 3M’s view, it’s never been more exciting to be in the dental business. The body of evidence connecting oral health and overall health continues to grow. There is exciting research on the oral microbiome that will continue to advance the understanding of caries and other oral diseases and conditions.

At the same time, technology is advancing at an amazing pace and having a real impact on care. New dental materials are enabling better, easier, and less costly treatment options. Although further out, we’re excited for the possibility of materials with a healing biological effect. And we are seeing how digital technology is giving caregivers tools for better detection, diagnosis, and treatment, along with ways to use patient data for improved individualized care. Look at how rapidly 3-D printing is transforming dental and orthodontic practices. There is no question that technology will enable better patient care and care delivery for clinicians. Yes, there are challenges to meeting all global needs, and big technical breakthroughs are not predictable. But we draw from expertise and technologies from across all of 3M, and are therefore uniquely positioned to bring innovation to oral care.

What have been the major achievements of FDI in 2017, and what are some of FDI’s major goals for 2018 and beyond?

Dr. Kell: First launched by FDI in 2007, World Oral Health Day is the culmination of a year-long campaign dedicated to raising global awareness on the prevention and control of oral disease. The 2017 campaign, themed “Live Mouth Smart,” was particularly successful, with 149 countries participating. The campaign reached 600 million people worldwide. In 2018, for the very first time, we are launching a three-year campaign under the theme “Say Ahh,” a phrase used by both dentists and doctors, to emphasize the intrinsic connection between the mouth and general health and well-being. Each year will have its own theme, and 2018’s is “Think Mouth, Think Health.” It will aim to educate people on the mouth-body connection.

In terms of our major goals for 2018 and beyond, FDI adopted a new definition of oral health in 2016, a key milestone that is the first step to uniting the oral health community around a common language on oral diseases. This year, we’ve been working on the next step—developing an oral health measurement tool—which will be presented at the next World Dental Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from September 5–8, 2018. We hope to build on this and ultimately develop an oral health index scorecard.

From a global perspective, describe some of the challenges that dentistry is facing right now and how dentistry is adapting to meet those challenges.

Dr. Kell: Oral disease is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases worldwide, affecting 3.9 billion people. However, the response to the burden of oral disease has been slow and insufficient. The message that good oral health is an essential prerequisite of overall health and quality of life is still not fully recognized by the public. Traditional responses to oral care have focused on the delivery of individual restorative care (the “drill-and-fill” approach) instead of on public health prophylactic interventions. Addressing the global burden of oral disease constitutes a major public health challenge that requires shifting our focus from the existing treatment paradigm to one that emphasizes disease prevention and oral-health promotion. FDI is at the forefront of addressing this challenge, and we are committed to taking a leadership role in working with our member associations, dental practitioners, industry partners, and fellow international health organizations. This challenging paradigm shift requires a unified effort from all stakeholders within and outside the oral health community.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about FDI?

Dr. Kell: As I briefly mentioned before, the next FDI World Dental Congress will take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from September 5–8, 2018. This is FDI’s annual flagship event and a key date for the oral health community. The Congress features top-notch courses and dynamic workshops in all fields of dentistry and oral health, as well as hundreds of booths displaying the latest oral health products and services. It’s the ideal platform for member NDAs, industries, and other stakeholders to meet and collaborate.

How can dental professionals keep current with FDI efforts?

Dr. Kell: The best way to keep informed is to subscribe to FDI News for the latest developments in oral health and news about the World Dental Congress and other FDI campaigns and projects. Be sure to check out FDI’s official website and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.


Zachary Kulsrud is senior editor of PennWell Corporation’s dental group, publishers of Apex360, Dental Economics, DentistryIQ, Perio-Implant Advisory, and RDH. He is the chief editor of Apex360 and managing editor of Dental Economics. Reach him at zacharyk@pennwell.com and follow him on Twitter at @zkuls.

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