FDI Unveils New Universally Applicable Definition of 'Oral Health'

Posted on September 7, 2016

FDI World Dental Federation today launched the new definition of 'oral health' - positioning it as an integral part of general health and well-being - at its Annual World Dental Congress in Poznan, Poland. It was adopted by over 200 national dental associations (NDAs) and will now be rolled out to the oral health community, globally.   

"This new definition is an important milestone for the oral health profession," said Dr Patrick Hescot, FDI President. "True to our Vision 2020 advocacy strategy and our ambition to lead the world to optimal oral health, the new definition will allow us to develop standardized assessment and measurement tools for consistent data collection on a global level."

As defined by FDI, oral health:

Is multi-faceted and includes, but is not limited to, the ability to speak, smile, smell, taste, touch, chew, swallow and convey a range of emotions through facial expressions with confidence and free from pain or discomfort, and disease of the craniofacial complex.

Further attributes related to the definition state that oral health:

  • is a fundamental component of health and physical and mental wellbeing, which exists along a continuum influenced by the values and attitudes of individuals and communities,

  • reflects the physiological, social and psychological attributes that are essential to the quality of life,  

  • is influenced by the individual's changing experience, perceptions, expectations and ability to adapt to circumstances.

The new definition was coined by FDI's Vision 2020 Think Tank members, which includes experts in oral health, public health and health economics. Together with a companion framework tested against external stakeholders, the new oral health definition is the result of a wider consultation which included patients, oral health professionals, NDAs, the public health community, academia, government, industry and third-party payers.

"With this new definition, we want to raise awareness of the different dimensions of oral health and emphasize that oral health does not occur in isolation, but is embedded in the wider framework of overall health" said Prof. David Williams, Co-Chair of FDI's Vision 2020 Think Tank.

"We are proposing a contemporary definition of oral health, which resonates with that used by many NDAs and the World Health Organization," said Prof. Michael Glick, Co-Chair of FDI's Vision 2020 Think Tank. "It is therefore not a revolution, but an evolution."

FDI plans to widely disseminate this oral health definition and advocate for its operationalization to establish a standard measurement instrument that can be applied across countries. A measurement toolbox will be ready in 2017 to allow for assessment of individual and population needs that can inform and drive oral health policies.

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