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CSA defines oral health through cross-organizational effort

January 05, 2015

By Jean Williams

Dr. Truelove
What is oral health? It's a short question that needs a comprehensive yet clear and simple answer.

The ADA Council on Scientific Affairs discussed the different dimensions involved in defining oral health and reached a consensus that achieved approval at the 2014 House of Delegates.

The CSA drafted the definition and then sought feedback from multiple organizations in the U.S. and abroad before bringing it to the 2014 House.

"The process was lengthy but highly organized," said Dr. Edmond Truelove, past chair of the CSA and an oral medicine professor at the University of Washington School of Dentistry.

Dr. Daniel Meyer, ADA chief science officer, and Dr. Michael Glick, editor of The Journal of the American Dental Association, described the CSA's process and the foundational concepts used in the definition in the June 2014 edition of JADA.

"No matter how oral health is defined, the message remains: Oral health is essential to an individual's general health and quality of life," they wrote. "To that end, it should be a key element in beneficial health policies."

The definition, adopted from Resolution 97H-2014, states:  Oral health is a functional, structural, aesthetic, physiologic and psychosocial state of well-being and is essential to an individual's general health and quality of life.

"The strength of this definition is its linkage with health and well-being as opposed to disease and it is structurally integrated, not just teeth and gums," said Dr. Eugenio Beltran, senior director, ADA Center for Scientific Strategies & Information.

Dr. Truelove described the definition as broad-based and inclusive. He expressed pride in how the CSA managed the process, including the management of cross-organizational involvement, and in the culmination of House approval.

The expectation is that the definition will serve dentistry and patients well. "I hope that it will guide the profession and others to further appreciate the critical importance of oral health and the essential role the profession plays within society and the health care community in contributing to the health of our patients and of society at large," said Dr. Truelove.