PULLING BACK THE CURTAIN:The making of FDI World Dental Congress 2023

One of the great benefits of being in any profession, and this applies to dentistry as much as any other career group, is the chance to get together at conferences and congresses with friends and colleagues to learn, discover and to network.

It’s an understandably enriching experience, and while the COVID pandemic put paid for almost three years to these types of events in person (though the virtual variety thrived), they are happily returning now, and with them, the chance to experience a whole world of learning and interaction that’s usually not possible in day-to-day professional life.

One sign that the world of in-person professional gatherings is well and truly back on its feet is the forthcoming ADA-hosted FDI (Fédération Dentaire Internationale) World Dental Congress 2023 (FDIWDC23), to be staged at the International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney) in Darling Harbour from 24 to 27 September. This event, which will be the largest event of its kind staged by the ADA and the biggest footprint of any event in Sydney since the pandemic, is shaping up as a brilliant return to form for ADA-run Congresses which have attracted a well-deserved reputation for offering world-class instruction from leaders in the profession, exhibitions that showcase a global array of cutting-edge products and services and social events that offer the opportunity to connect with fellow dentists and dental professionals


Events of this size and scale don’t simply magically come into being (though you suspect the organisers, dedicated to their craft though they are, may not object if they did so) and are the result of a great deal of hard work behind the scenes. They are also in this “New Normal” world in which we live, the consequence of a long and winding road to realisation, one which, in the case of the FDIWDC23, has had a long and complicated though ultimately successful genesis.

For those who might recall, the FDI World Dental Federation initially awarded the World Dental Congress to Australia for 2021. But the pandemic eventually meant that the in-person iteration of the event, beset by a host of worldwide travel restrictions and lockdowns necessary to contain the spread of COVID, had to pivot to an online event in very short order.

While the virtual event was a great success and attracted a great deal of interest both during its four-day run and, in the months, afterwards when its modules were available online, organisers are looking forward to staging what will be the first in-person World Dental Congress since San Francisco (USA) in 2019.

One person in particular who is excited by the return of an in-person event is Oscar van Elten, General Manager, Events & Sales. Mr van Elten has led the ADA events team for over a decade, and who is thrilled to have it all happening on the ground rather than in the cloud after such a long interval without attendees thronging through convention centre doors.

He is quick to emphasise that while this is an all-new event, it has the same talented organising team behind it.

“We are fortunate that we have mostly the same group of people in place who have brought you the national ADA Congresses since 2011 including those in Melbourne in 2017 and Adelaide in 2019, and the highly successful virtual broadcast of the World Dental Congress in 2021.

“This year’s World Dental Congress, which you could liken to an extreme version of a national dental Congress in structure, will reflect that well-run nature and quality of its predecessors, evident in the quality of the main scientific programme which offers more than 220 sessions, and a scaled-up exhibition which will take place over four days. We’re anticipating that this year’s Congress will be the largest dental event ever held in Australia, providing everyone with great learning opportunities and exposure to the global cutting edge of dentistry, but also to catch up with friends, colleagues, and dental professionals once again from across Australia and throughout the world in person, without having to leave the country.”


One key feature of FDIWDC23, and indeed every World Dental Congress, highlighted by Mr van Elten is the expansive main scientific programme (MSP).

Offering four full days of unparalleled professional learning (in excess of 175 hours of CPD), the MSP will take place over multiple streams taking place concurrently with an extensive range of engaging topics such as “The significance of radiographic incidental findings”, “The use of cone-beam CT imaging in endodontic diagnosis and treatment” and “The ABCs of panoramic radiology”.

The intent, notes former ADA President and Chair of the Scientific Programme Division (SPD) which reports to the National Organising Committee for the event, Dr Hugo Sachs, was to develop a programme that “gives a very broad hands up on many, but not all the trends in dentistry”.

“Some subjects can’t be covered because in reality the practice of dentistry throughout the world is not universally consistent,” says Dr Sachs. “We are meeting ‘head on’ with areas that are critically important and have a level of controversy, particularly those that have broad implications in sustaining good oral health and the influences upon general health as a whole. We also have a large content of the bread-and-butter aspects of dentistry and the innovations, particularly in the emerging digital age. This Congress should challenge your thought processes but also give the necessary evidence base to support the emerging treatment ideologies.”


Drilling down further into the programme, the planning for which began in September 2021 just after the virtual FDI WDC 21 concluded, there are a number of key themes that have emerged in planning the MSP, driven by a recognition that “this year’s event, as always, is totally directed towards general practice dentists.”

“A successful practising life in dentistry, particularly in general practice, is contingent upon a broad skill setand a capacity to evidence base your decision makingfor the benefit of the patient. I believe this congresscaters for all interests, but there are some that weas healthcare professionals have to recognise and be proactive.

“Viruses and bacteria are from my perspective the greatest threat to mankind and, for that matter, the longevity of all creatures great and small. I believe they have a far greater potential of affecting life as we know it [with the] last few years [proving to] have been a testament to this. The problem is going to become increasingly significant and more common [with] all predictions that we are overdue for a super influenza. So the question becomes: what have we learnt from the experiences of COVID, and what if anything should we be doing now to minimise risk?

“Another major area of concern is the global increase of head and neck cancer and there is an evidence base that dentists unfortunately sometimes miss the early premalignant lesions and don’t always instigate appropriate early treatment,” says Dr Sachs. “So, I believe our oral cancer stream is critically important. There are also reports of increased oropharyngeal cancers in women under the age of 40. Pain management is also of prime concern in dentistry and we have a responsibility to minimise the use of potent, narcotic-based analgesia.”


Solid engaging themes are undoubtedly an attraction, and one the SPD has spent a great deal of time bringing together in planning that has largely taken place, quite successfully, over Zoom and email. But key to an event of this scope and size are the presenters, drawn from Australia and around the world. Fifty percent of the speakers have been selected in a partnership between FDI and the SPD, with selection of the remaining 50% split equally between the two groups, “no mean feat”, notes Dr Sachs, “considering you are speaking to people from all over the world.”

Having been directly involved in selecting a great many of the speakers in consultation with his fellow SPD members – Dr Sachs invariably has a number of key presenters he is looking forward to seeing present on their respective topics.

“Who are the biggest drawcards?” he muses. “Well, that’s a loaded question and, without trying to sit on the fence, the vast majority of the FDIWDC2023 presenters have an international footprint and are highly soughtafter presenters.

“Honestly, I’m probably going to be so busy that I won’t get to see all my preferences, but I really want to see Prof. Purnima Kumar (USA) present; she is a dental icon and so gracious and giving of her time. A real star in dental research and education.

“I am also really looking forward to several of the symposia, especially as we have an emphasis on oral cancer, and hearing from Prof. Jonathon Clark (Australia), an Aussie guru on head and neck oncology. Given that antimicrobial resistance is a subject we can’t stick our heads in the sand as it is a massive problem for the existence of mankind now and into the future, it will definitely be worth seeing Dr Wendy Thompson (UK), Prof. Purnima Kumar and Dr Geraldine Moses (Australia).

“Worth watching too is the perennial favourite Dr Fin Sutton (UK) in regard to prosthodontics along with Dr Tony Rotondo (Australia), Prof. Frauke Muller (Germany) as well as Prof. Mark Wolff (USA) in the arena of geriodontics, and Prof. Bill Scarfe (Australia/USA), who is a guru in his field of digital dentistry; what he doesn’t know about his area of expertise isn’t worth knowing. I’m not an orthodontic buff, but Prof. Zakaria Bentahar (Morocco) is one not to be missed, particularly in relationship multidisciplinary cases,” he says.


Summing up the programme but also the event as a whole, Dr Sachs observes that there is a great deal on offer.

“This year’s event as always is totally directed towards general practice dentists. Formal lectures and 10 symposia, plus a young dentists’ forum provide hours of CE delivered by 130 lecturers! Add in abstracts and poster presentations, a dental assistants and practice managers programme, the Pierre Fauchard Emerging Lecturers programme and competition, a significant number of FDI symposia, Lunch-and-Learns (limited attendance) and FDIWDC23 adds up to a huge value for money proposition.

This is definitely a point worth noting. While the emphasis is clearly on education, exhibitions are an important of any Congress because they offer the rare opportunity to see products up close and in person, and to better understand services on offer by talking to representatives face to face. The exhibition for FDIWDC23 will take in 25,000 square metres over two huge floors of ICC Sydney, featuring an impressive selection of dental product and service companies and a chance for delegates to talk to ADA representatives directly.

It’s an invaluable way for delegates to get exposed to fresh ideas and approaches away from the usual distractions of day-to-day professional life and to see and talk about the products and services that will likely shape your professional journey in coming years.


By any measure, events like FDIWDC23 are multifaceted, expansively big events that offer multiple opportunities to meet up with friends and to get to know or reacquaint yourself with colleagues from across the globe.

Add the countless social events that will make up this year’s Congress, details of which will be released in coming months, to the MSP and the exhibition and you have a challenging event to make happen though operations of this scale are well within the purview of a host venue like ICC Sydney which is well used to events of this size and scale.

As Geoff Donaghy, Chief Executive Officer, International Convention Centre Sydney and Group Director – Convention Centres, ASM GLOBAL (APAC) points out, events of this magnitude rely on collaborations between all involved parties.

“Hosting the FDI World Dental Congress is testament to the close collaboration and partnership ICC Sydney has with our valued stakeholders at Australian Dental Association, the FDI World Dental Federation and Business Events Sydney, and we’re looking forward to welcoming everyone in this important delegation to ICC Sydney,” he says.

“Managed by a uniquely talented team, ICC Sydney is well placed to deliver extraordinary experiences at the FDI World Dental Congress and our team will go out of their way to deliver a truly memorable event. From ICC Sydney’s excellent culinary service, its audio-visual services, industry leading Legacy Program and event management and logistic services – every aspect of the venue’s awardwinning event delivery will be engaged to provide a world class experience to the FDI World Congress delegation.”

From every angle, FDIWDC23 promises to be a world-class experience indeed, bringing the world to the door of Australia’s dentists, and offering an unparalleled look at where dentistry is now and where it is heading in the years to come.


“FDI World Dental Congress 2019 in San Francisco was an amazing experience, unlike any other dental conference that I have attended. You expect the Americans to put on a show, but having more than 30,000 dentists in one venue was incredible. The choice of lectures that you could attend was able to cater for any taste, with the smaller lecture rooms running 12 simultaneous streams. The opening ceremony at an FDI has the feel of an Olympic games event, with many countries’ delegates waving flags and cheering for their home country. FDI sets their registration fee to a very affordable rate – for example you get four days of world class speakers for about the price of a one-day hands on course in Australia.

“While I was in San Francisco, we met up with dentists from all around the world, including Japanese, Koreans, Germans and of course many US dentists. The opportunities for networking with your colleagues from other countries is something that only FDI can provide. For example at an ICD Dinner in San Francisco I was introduced to Prof. Purnima Kumar, a world leading US based Professor of Periodontics. She will be one of the international speakers in Sydney this September at the FDI 2023, her lectures are not to be missed.

“Having an FDI in Australia is an outstanding achievement for the ADA; make sure you attend this once-in-a-generation dental Congress.”

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