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Redefining Oral Health

Recently, the FDI World Dental Federation developed a new definition of oral health.

Recently, the FDI World Dental Federation developed a new definition of oral health. The FDI is a 105-year-old organization that focuses on issues such as dental education, oral hygiene, and public dental health. It holds annual congresses in various cities around the world, publishes educational resources, and initiates partnerships with key stakeholders. So when the FDI releases a statement, it carries a great deal of weight.

This new definition is groundbreaking because it considers the impactful nature of oral health. The FDI’s new definition is: “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.”1

The FDI also includes attributes of oral health, stating that oral health:

  • Is a fundamental component of health and physical and mental well-being. It exists along a continuum influenced by the values and attitudes of people and communities.
  • Reflects the physiological, social, and psychological attributes that are essential to quality of life.
  • Is influenced by the individual’s changing experiences, perceptions, expectations, and ability to adapt to circumstances.

Why is this important to oral health professionals? Because this revised definition helps us find common ground with our health care colleagues. Instead of focusing on disease and its treatment, this definition highlights the wellness model of oral health. It emphasizes the important connection between oral health and overall health, while considering patients’ values. And the new definition enables health professionals across all disciplines to agree on oral health’s significant impact.

After years of disconnect between oral and overall health, we are seeing a renaissance in how health professionals view the mouth/body connection. This new definition confirms that we have truly turned the page in coming to agreement regarding the tremendous importance of oral health. And the involvement of the FDI in redefining oral health shows our desire and determination to improve the health of the public across the globe.

Jill Rethman, RDH, BA
Editor in Chief


  1. FDI World Dental Federation. FDI’s Definition of Oral Health. Available at: Accessed February 17, 2017.

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. March 2017;15(3):8.

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