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Global Issues, Global Solutions

The International Federation of Dental Hygienists (IFDH) celebrates its 35th anniversary this year.

The International Federation of Dental Hygienists (IFDH) celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. A world-wide organization with 34 member countries, the IFDH is “…the principal advocate for the dental hygiene profession globally and promotes excellence in oral health, education, research, and practice.”1 

With the goal of advancing the dental hygiene profession internationally, the IFDH presented its first online summit to promote policies that improve oral and overall health. Titled “Global Oral Health Summit, the Future Together: Enhancing the Role of the Dental Hygienist in Oral Health and Total Health,” the meeting’s speakers included international experts in their fields. Among those presenting were:

  • Nigel Pitts, FRSE, BDS, PhD, FDS RCS (Eng), FDS RCS (Edin), FFGDP (UK), FFPH: Global Chairman, Alliance for a Cavity-Free Future
  • Julian Fisher, BDS, MSc, MIH, Researcher and Policy Advisor for the United Nations
  • Yvonne Nyblom, President, European Dental Hygienists Federation
  • George Tsakos, BDS, MSc, PhD, FHEA, Chair, European Oral Health Platform
  • Gernard Konrad Seeberger, DMD, President, FDI World Dental Federation
  • Christopher Fox, DMD, DMSc, CEO, International Association for Dental Research
  • Benoit Varenne, DDS, MPH, PhD, Dental Officer Oral Health Programme, World Health Organization

IFDH leaders and speakers supported by corporate sponsors also participated. It was an excellent program, with several common themes. Nearly every presenter explained that almost half of the world’s population is affected by poor oral health. Therefore, prevention is key, and the time has truly come to emphasize preventive efforts. Further, because the dental hygienist is the prevention expert in oral healthcare, our role will continue to be significant. In fact, because prevention in oral health promotes good overall health, the value of the dental hygienist will continue to grow. 


I was curious why prevention might now be at the forefront of oral healthcare, since our profession has been trying for decades to make it so. One reason may be the recently passed World Health Assembly’s Oral Health Resolution (WHA74). According to the FDI World Dental Federation website: “The resolution recognizes the global burden of oral diseases and their associations with other conditions, urging member states to address shared risk factors, enhance the professional capacity of oral health professionals to deliver consistent and quality care, and to include oral health in universal health coverage benefit packages.”2 In addition, the second ever Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health, originally commissioned by Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, MPH, in 2018, will be released this fall by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

Two of my favorite quotes from the summit were calls to action for all who participated. Pitts stated, “We’ve been talking to ourselves about prevention…we now need to engage with policy makers and health economists.” Tsakos said, “This is a call for us to not just provide the evidence, but to promote policies.” The global problem of oral disease can be prevented, and dental hygienists are crucial to the solution.

Beginning September 1, 2021, a video of the “Global Oral Health Summit, the Future Together: Enhancing the Role of the Dental Hygienist in Oral Health and Total Health” will be available at no charge

Jill Rethman, RDH, BA
Editor in Chief


  1. International Federation of Dental Hygienists. About the IFDH. Available  Accessed July 16, 2021.
  2. FDI World Dental Federation. FDI’s Recap of the 74th World Health Assembly: Oral Health, Health Workforce and More.  Available  Accessed July 16, 2021.

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. August 2021;19(8):6.

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