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The Definition of ‘Oral Health’ Recently Received an Official Update

The Definition of ‘Oral Health’ Recently Received an Official Update

If you were to ask your patients what the definition of “oral health” is, how do you think they’d respond?


Mostly likely (and probably with a bit of a guilty conscience) they’d say that oral health simply means to brush and floss their teeth.


But as any dentist worth their salt knows, that’s not painting the whole picture. Now, thanks to the FDI World Dental Federation, there’s a new definition of “oral health” in town—one that will hopefully help others understand what this important term actually means.



What Did They Say?

The new definition of oral health was introduced in September 2016 as part of the Annual World Dental Congress in Poland. Here’s what they said:




“Oral health is multi-faceted and includes the ability to speak, smile, smell, taste, touch, chew, swallow and convey a range of emotions through facial expressions with confidence and without pain, discomfort and disease of the craniofacial complex.”


The new definition also goes on to describe oral health as “a fundamental component of health and physical and mental wellbeing.”



In other words, oral health is much more than simply being cavity-free. It is an essential part of every person’s wellbeing—and it’s time for the world to understand that.



What Does That Mean?

Now, this new definition isn’t trying to completely redefine dentistry or anything like that. But what it does do is help put dentistry and other aspects of oral health in focus as part of a person’s overall wellbeing.



Think of how a doctor treats a patient who suffers from a heart condition. Their focus isn’t merely on the heart itself, but on how the heart condition affects the individual’s overall physical—and even mental—state.


In short, this new definition of oral health aims to help the world view the work of dentists in the same way.


After all, a cavity doesn’t merely affect the damaged tooth. It can impact a person’s ability to chew their food without pain, or feel confident in their smile. In other words, even something as simple as a cavity can directly impact several elements of a person’s quality of life.




As a dentist, you already knew that. But in the medical community as a whole (and especially with patients), this important truth was often neglected.


With this new definition in place, the dental community hopes to improve understanding of its work, which will ultimately lead to better research opportunities, care policies and other improvements.





Now chances are, your patients probably aren’t going to suddenly view their oral health with this broader perspective.


But as the dental industry shifts its focus to emphasize the role of dentistry in terms of overall health, you’ll be better equipped to help your patients be more likely to actually care the next time you tell them to brush and floss.

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