3 Definitions of Oral Health: Which one is right for your practice?

Posted on by Jen McGuire | Category Recare, Total Health

The FDI Dental World Federation recently published a new definition of oral health that was quickly adopted by more than 200 dental organizations, including the American Dental Association. According to Dr. Michael Glick and other ADA representatives, “A common definition can bring stakeholders together to advocate for the importance of oral health; to influence and shape parameters of care, health policies, research, education, and reimbursement models; and to shape the future of our profession.” Ideally the new definition will facilitate an increased focus on the importance of oral health worldwide. How oral health is defined within individual dental practices also has direct ramifications on patient health.

“Oral health is the absence of pain.”
Granted, it’s unlikely any dental professionals would choose to use this definition, but patients often rely on the absence of pain as a benchmark for oral health. Patients using this definition can feel justified in cancelling or skipping preventative visits.

“Oral health is the absence of disease.”
While the traditional definition of oral health reflects a priority on preventing and treating caries, periodontal disease, and oral cancer, there are a host of other oral conditions not considered to be diseases. This definition overlooks alignment, esthetics, and function, among others, which most dental professionals choose to address with their patients. Using this definition of oral health may lead patients to devalue oral health recommendations outside the parameters of “disease”.

“Oral health is multifaceted 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.”
Instead of focusing on what oral health is not, this new definition adopted by the FDI outlines all of the benefits that good oral health provides. Not only does this broaden the scope of what’s included in oral health, it also creates a value proposition for professional dental care that can and should be shared with patients.

During patient conversations, provide education about the importance of oral health and all that it encompasses to motivate patients to keep their appointments and accept treatment. For help with patient education, contact your Henry Schein representative or request a free in-office Total Health workshop.


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