International News, Interviews

Interview with President FDI, Dr. Kathryn Kell

Interview with President FDI, Dr. Kathryn Kell

By Dr. Abbas Naqvi

Please tell us something about your career in dentistry/dental politics?
As president of FDI, I have had the privilege of traveling all around the world. And everywhere I’ve gone, in the people I’ve met, and through the stories I’ve heard, I have seen a persistent commitment to oral health. I’ve seen everyone – children, adults, and older folks – take charge of their oral health and inspire others to do the same. This level of global engagement for oral health makes me reflect on how I began my journey as a dentist and oral health advocate. I first became involved in FDI over 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 member national dental associations (NDAs) are our most important asset in this regard. My goal as FDI president is to collaborate closely with our members and partners to further our vision as one. We must work together to develop new projects to increase oral health outcomes wherever possible. Developing a common vision is the only way we will tackle the global burden of oral disease.
How has the FDI WDF evolved in its vision, mission and execution since its inception and especially in the last few decades?
 FDI was founded in 1900 in Paris, France, by French dentist Dr Charles Godon. FDI was initially set up to implement international dental congresses centering on dental education, oral hygiene, and public dental health. Over a century later, FDI has evolved into a powerhouse within the oral health community; we lead the global fight to improve the oral health around the world. Despite the high global burden of oral disease, governments have treated oral health as a low priority issue for decades. Over the last few years, however, FDI and its member associations have played a leading role in bringing oral health to the forefront of the global health agenda. There has been a growing acceptance among policymakers that oral health is both an essential component to general health and well-being and is a basic human right. Specifically, FDI’s advocacy work, known as Vision 2020, has strengthened the visibility and awareness of oral health at both the national and global level..
There is huge FDI activity on the awareness and education front. What has the FDI role been in helping countries struggling with oral healthcare delivery infrastructure in actually reinforcing that front?
The Smile Around the World initiative is a prime example of our work on education and oral health awareness-raising. Smile Around the World promotes oral health and disease prevention among children with limited access to oral healthcare. We are thrilled with the success of our most recent Smile Around the World initiative in China. We were able to promote and instil good oral health habits among 3,614 children in 6 primary schools in three provinces in western China where there is a demonstrated need to improve oral health.
Smile Around the World aims to raise awareness of oral health in disadvantaged rural and urban communities through engaging educational activities. This programme was successful due to FDI member commitment and collaboration. We worked closely with Chinese Stomatological Association, an FDI member, to implement this project. I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the children at Fengyin Elementary School in Weinan, China, in June. The highlight of my journey in Weinan was meeting these kids and witnessing their excitement about having good oral health – it was such a heartening feeling to see such a positive impact.
Minamata Convention on Mercury: what is the significance of the ratification of the Convention by countries v/s those who are merely signatories (meaningfulness)
The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the negative effects of mercury. The Convention has significant implications for the practice of dentistry due to its requirement to phase-down the use of dental amalgam. As of July 2018, 94 countries have ratified the Convention and 128 countries have signed the Convention, which entered into force on 16 August 2017. There is a notable difference between those countries that have signed the Convention and those who have ratified it. The 128 countries that have signed the Convention demonstrate their intent to comply with the points laid out in the Convention. However, simply signing the Convention does not mean that the countries have an obligation to comply with and/or implement its provisions. Ratification happens after signing the Convention, according to the procedures of each country. So far, 94 of the 124 signatory countries have ratified the Minamata Convention, meaning that the signatories agree to be officially bound by the Convention and must take action to comply with its provisions.

Please give us insight into the FDI Regional Congresses including the recent one in Iran.
The FDI Regional Congresses offer a unique opportunity to collaborate with local partners within the oral health community to tailor our oral health messages and outreach to a specific audience and geographical region. The 2nd FDI Middle Eastern Regional Dental Congress was held in Tehran, Iran, in April 2018. Organized in collaboration with the Iranian Dental Association, this Congress was the first in a series of Congresses that will take place over the next three years. The theme of the Congress, Declaration of oral health rights, highlighted efforts made by the Iranian dental community in dental education, prevention and treatment. With over 7,000 registered participants and 12,000 visitors at the dental exhibition, this Congress offered FDI the opportunity to enhance its visibility and establish ties within the dental community throughout the Middle East.

Coming from USA, it may have been of direct interest to you that USA is #9 in knowing Mouth Smart & #10 in living it. Comments?
I’d like to talk a little bit about World Oral Health Day (WOHD). WOHD, celebrated every year on 20 March, is the largest global awareness campaign on oral health. WOHD spreads messages about good oral hygiene practices to both adults and children and demonstrates the importance of optimal oral health in maintaining general health and well-being. Each year, WOHD focuses on a specific theme and reaches out to the public, oral health professionals, and policymakers, who all have a role to play to help reduce the burden of oral disease. Many oral diseases can be avoided with increased awareness, support, and funding for prevention, detection and treatment programmes, which is what World Oral Health Day is all about. As to specific USA involvement in WOHD, the American Dental Association actively celebrates this important day every year. FDI encourages all member National Dental Associations, including the Pakistan Dental Association, governments, non-governmental organizations, media and other entities to participate in WOHD to develop community, national, regional, and global activities to improve oral health.

Brush Day & Night (BDN) phase III: Results revealed a 25% increase in brushing by school children. Can you please highlight some details of the BDN program (countries involved, etc.)?
Brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste is one of the most important habits for good oral health. Through Brush Day & Night (BDN) activities, children learn about the benefits of good oral hygiene and are taught to brush their teeth twice-daily with a fluoride toothpaste. BDN also encourages children to become community advocates and spread the message of good oral health to their families and friends. In 2017, we evaluated Phase III of BDN, which ran from 2014–2016. A detailed evaluation of Phase III was published in a supplement of the International Dental Journal (IDJ), which was released during the first quarter of 2018. We are pleased with the results of Phase III, which demonstrated a notable increase in schoolchildren’s brushing rates. We’re very excited about Phase IV, which will run until 2019 and is currently being implemented in partnership with national dental associations (NDAs) and local, sponsoring Unilever teams in Indonesia and Nigeria through oral health programmes in schools and WOHD activities.

In 2016, a Journal of Clinical Periodontology study widely publicized in the media brought the role of flossing into question. The ADA also conceded that “…when flossing was added to tooth brushing, there was a statistically significant, albeit clinically small, reduction in the measures of gingivitis” and “…while the average benefit is small and the quality of the evidence is very low…”.
What are your thoughts on the subject?
At FDI, we underline the importance of prevention to ensure optimal oral health. At FDI, we believe that flossing is a key part of any oral care routine. A healthy mouth is important at all ages. A healthy mouth free of oral diseases can be maintained by making smart choices when it comes to oral hygiene, diet and other lifestyle habits. With regular visits to the dentist, signs of tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral conditions can be noticed early and treated. More advanced cases may require specialized care. Limit dental plaque by adopting good oral hygiene habits at home – brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste and floss at least once a day after mealtimes. We recommend that you brush for two minutes twice a day, using either a manual or electric toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste.
What could Pakistan’s dentistry expect from FDI for its oral health needs?
Building a strong membership is very important to us. We continue to collaborate with our members to deliver ambitious oral health education and public health programmes around the world. As an organization created by the members for the members, we strengthen FDI as a whole by developing programmes and activities to further meet the needs of our members. FDI commits to ensuring that the interests of all our members, including the Pakistan Dental Association, are represented at the global level to help support their efforts at a national level. We count on our members to share their most pressing oral health needs with us so that we can support them. With this in mind, we encourage the Pakistan Dental Association to actively communicate with us. We would also encourage the Pakistan Dental Association to be in touch with FDI’s National Liaison Officer in Pakistan, who can be a valuable resource in terms of our current programmes and recent publications. Everyone is also welcome to visit our website at or engage with us on Twitter and Facebook. Working in close collaboration with our members is essential to improve oral health and combat oral disease worldwide
July 30, 2018

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