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FDI adopts new definition of ‘oral health’

September 08, 2016

By David Burger

Image of FDI World Dental Federation logo
Pozńan, Poland — The FDI World Dental Federation launched Sept. 6 a new definition of the term “oral health” during the prelude to its Annual World Dental Congress in Pozńan, designating oral health as an integral part of general health and well-being.

"We are proposing a contemporary definition of oral health, which resonates with that used by many national dental associations and the World Health Organization,” said Dr. Michael Glick, co-chair of FDI’s Vision 2020 think tank, The Journal of the American Dental Association editor and professor and William M. Feagans chair at the School of Dental Medicine at the State University of New York University at Buffalo, in a news release. “It is therefore not a revolution, but an evolution.”

As defined by FDI, 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.
  • Is a fundamental component of health and physical and mental wellbeing. It 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 experiences, perceptions, expectations and ability to adapt to circumstances.

In an email from Poland, Dr. Glick explained why the old definition needed to be changed. “The old definition lacked a theoretical framework that made assessment and evaluation of oral health hard to measure,” he said. “Furthermore, this new definition moves dentistry from treating disease to treating a person with disease. The new definition uses language that resonates with language commonly used in the healthcare realm — words and concepts that healthcare professionals across disciplines can understand and use.”
The new definition was created by FDI’s Vision 2020 Think Tank, which includes experts in oral health, public health and health economics.

“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 David Williams, Ph.D., a professor at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry at Queen Mary University in London and co-chair of FDI’s Vision 2020 Think Tank, in the news release.

“This new definition is an important milestone for the oral health profession,” said FDI President Dr. Patrick Hescot in the news release. “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.”

The definition was adopted by over 200 national dental associations.

The FDI World Dental Federation, headquartered in Geneva, serves as the principal representative for over a million dentists worldwide, and its membership includes some 200 national member associations and specialist groups in more than 130 countries.