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An in-depth look at: The Alliance for a Cavity-Free Future

Having been recognised in 2018 as a King’s College Exemplar for Service, the Alliance for a Cavity-Free Future (ACFF) continues to make waves and demonstrate impact globally. So who are the ACFF, and what do they do?

The Alliance for a Cavity-Free Future’s (ACFF’s) global office is based within the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences at King's College London, with Faculty Academic Impact Lead Professor Nigel Pitts sitting as Global Chairman of the organisation, and a number of other King’s staff supporting.

The ACFF is a registered charity, founded in 2010 when a group of like-minded dental professionals and academics joined forces to create an international organisation dedicated to fighting dental caries- the disease which when left unmanaged and untreated can lead to tooth decay. Since 2013, the ACFF has made its home within the faculty and has been carving a space for itself within international dental discussion. The ACFF is built around challenging the misconception that tooth decay need be an inevitable part of life, and works to create a world where it is not viewed as such. The stretch goal of the Alliance is that ‘Every child born in 2026 and thereafter should stay cavity-free during their lifetime.’

Through an international network of Chapters (28 at the start of 2021) operating in over 40 countries, local teams are working to increase awareness of the caries process within their communities, promoting best oral health practices and offering education on the behavioural and dietary aspects of preventing tooth decay. ACFF Chapter groups have also been instrumental in pushing forward the reformation of the dental curriculum in universities to include a more comprehensive cariology syllabus and a more preventive focus. These updated curricula are in the process of being implemented across Europe, the USA, and also in countries such as Colombia and Malaysia.

In addition to the local Chapter activity, there are a range of ACFF initiatives and projects which are operated at an international level. The ACFF has built a global network of partner organisations and associations with whom they work closely in order to increase awareness and to promote the ACFF agenda across the international dental landscape. By sharing best practices and resources among practitioner and public health groups, student organisations and other NGO’s, the Alliance network has become wide branching and highly respected, working assertively towards achieving mutual goals, and collaborating to see a reduction in caries inequality across countries and social groups.

The ACFF conceived and launched ‘World Cavity-Free Future Day’, an international awareness day held annually on October 14 focused on raising awareness of caries and sharing public focused oral health messaging.This event has engaged patients and professionals the world over, reaching millions of people each year with its messaging.

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In addition to maintaining their Chapter and partner networks, the ACFF also has got one foot in the political domain. Between 2017 and 2019 the ACFF hosted three very successful ‘Policy Lab’ events in association with the Policy Institute at King’s College London. The first of these was focused on the question of how to accelerate a policy shift towards increased resource allocation for caries prevention and control. Attended by multiple policy makers and government officials from around the world, this event marked the start of a new period of focus for the ACFF, and was a springboard for a series of in depth, high level policy discussions to take place.

The 2018 and 2019 Policy Labs built on this success and looked at how we can work to create (and implement) prevention-based dental payment systems within established (or new) health systems, and also on working to ensure that oral health and dental industries can benefit from enabling positive preventive behaviour amongst patients. By bringing practitioners on board alongside policy makers and other stakeholders to battle through the key issues, the 2018 event resulted in the creation of a guidance document which can be used to initiate discussion about how to achieve this change within governments around the world. This has already been picked up by a number of countries, and the ACFF will continue to work closely with them and other interested parties as they manoeuvre towards implementing changes to their health systems. This momentum from the Policy Lab events is being maintained through the creation and maintenance of a ‘Policy Change Network’ who will continue to promote the possibilities raised through these events to a global audience.

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Alongside this, the ‘ACFF Taskforce for Making Cavities History’ published a set of policy recommendations in February 2021, and a consensus paper in March 2021, outlining the need for greater visibility for caries and cavities within oral and wider health policy. This Taskforce consisted of 35 international representatives from 20 countries with a broad range of scientific, specialist and public health expertise across a diverse range of disciplines, and the resulting documents have been lauded across key oral health and dental stakeholders and organisations. The next phase of this project will see the ACFF advocating for inclusion of caries and cavities related policies in local and international health policy development, supporting the development of more robust oral health policy globally.

The ACFF hosts a membership network, which allows the opportunity for interested individuals from around the world to join the Alliance network, share ideas and best practice and gain access to resources and tools which can be utilised in their daily work or practice to share the ACFF messages and help people and patients to move towards a Cavity-Free future. This network is in its infancy, and is growing each day, with huge plans for resource development over the coming months, as well as offering a Virtual Summit meeting later this year (2021) designed to educate and inspire our network, offer opportunities to connect to a diverse pool of likeminded individuals (from Dental Students to CDO’s) and share ideas and best practice towards pushing for a cavity-free future. The team are hugely excited about the opportunities being presented to us for this network and hope to see many King’s students and staff on the members list utilising the educational and networking opportunities and becoming part of our mission of ‘Making Cavities History’.

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In this story

Nigel  Pitts

Nigel Pitts

Academic Lead for Impact

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