A Definition to Smile About

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During the FDI World Dental Federation General Assembly this past fall, a new definition of oral health was approved. Previously, there was room for the definition to be modified depending on the individuals or organizations impacted. Now, the new definition acknowledges the multifaceted nature and attributes of oral health and unites patients, health care professionals, policy makers, and other oral health stakeholders on how to best advocate for oral health.

Oral health is now defined as a, “multi-faceted approach and includes the ability to speak, smile, 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 FDI discussed a number of attributes related to the new definition, including oral health,

  • As a fundamental component of health and physical and mental well-being, existing along a continuum influenced by the causes and attitudes of individuals and communities;
  • Reflecting the physiological, social and psychological attributes that are essential to the quality of life; and,
  • Influenced by the individuals changing experiences, perceptions, and expectations, and ability to adapt to circumstance.

Prior to the definition put forth by the FDI, oral health was defined solely by the absence of disease. This new, more encompassing definition will create a foundation of common understanding for how to best approach oral health issues. As a result, Kentucky Youth Advocates and the Kentucky Oral Health Coalition (KOHC) has fully adopted the definition. KOHC will continue to utilize a physiological, sociological, and psychological approach to engage partners across the state to improve the oral health of all people in Kentucky. With the new definition, the Coalition will be able to unite patients, providers, and policymakers in implementing programs and policies that shape how we, as a commonwealth, address oral health.

In the 2017 Kentucky General Assembly, we are advocating for the development and launch of a state oral health plan that prioritizes the oral health of all Kentucky kids. We encourage leaders to utilize this updated definition of oral health when developing Kentucky’s state oral health plan. Learn more about the Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children priority here.