On my website, I provide the test, How Orally Fit Are You? which gives insight into your oral health fitness and care, and establishes the personal role you take in your holistic, or overall, health. Oral Fitness is my model for oral health, stressing that you must take care of your teeth, gums and mouth just as you take care of your muscles and heart.

In your house growing up, oral health meant brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing and seeing your dentist twice a year for a checkup. For professionals, oral health was traditionally defined as the absence of disease. But this New Year 2017, I’m happy to say hello to the new definition of ORAL HEALTH.

As a leader, educator and philanthropist in the field of global oral health care, I was excited that an editorial in the December 2016 issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) discusses the September, 2016 FDI World Dental Federation’s new definition of oral health: 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.

In the past, the WHO World Health Organization’s definition of oral health was: Oral health is a state of being free from chronic mouth and facial pain, oral and throat cancer, oral sores, birth defects such as cleft lip and palate, periodontal (gum) disease, tooth decay and tooth loss, and other diseases and disorders that affect the oral cavity. Risk factors for oral diseases include unhealthy diet, tobacco use, harmful alcohol use, and poor oral hygiene.

Why is this new oral health definition such an advance?

“The new definition (of Oral Heath) moves dentistry from treating disease to treating a person with disease.” said Michael Glick, DMD, 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. Dr. Glick added, “A common definition can bring those 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.”

Founded in Paris in 1900 by a group of six dentists, under the name ‘Fédération Dentaire Internationale’, the FDI World Dental Federation’s objective was to advance the science and art of dentistry with the focus on dental education, oral hygiene and public dental health. Now headquartered in Geneva, FDI serves as the principal representative for over one million dentists worldwide, and its membership includes 200 national member associations and specialist groups in more than 130 countries. It announced that all have adopted the new oral health definition.

As a global oral health professional, I see this new definition of oral health as an important milestone in world oral health care, education, assessment and future advancements. Let this be another 2017 Happy New Year beginning for mouths around the world.

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