Brighter Smiles: Oral Health is Essential

Tuesday April 18, 2023

What is your definition of oral health? Is there even a standard definition of oral health? One thing is clear; the definition of oral health is not solely the absence of pain. Pain is also not necessarily an indication of poor oral health.
It wasn’t until the year 2000 that oral health was brought to the forefront of the surgeon general’s report as a critical component to overall health. This was an important event, but unfortunately never amounted to much in terms of being incorporated into most healthcare policies. This has led to continued poor to non-existent cross-over coverage between medical and dental insurance.
In 2005 at the World Congress of Preventive Dentistry, participants from 43 countries made it clear that oral health is an integral part of general health and overall well-being. They even concluded that oral health is a basic human right.
More recently, the United Nations recognized oral disease as an integral part of other non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic respiratory diseases and cancer. This association with these other diseases was based on common social determinants such as socioeconomic status, diet, tobacco and alcohol use, and not on the basis of transmission. However, there is still no solid definition of what oral health really is.
According to a column in the Journal of the American Dental Association, the American Dental Association is working on a proposed definition of oral health. The authors of the column state, “A proposed definition is necessary to achieve a common understanding of the scope of oral health, to help understand the array of complex oral and systemic health issues facing dental and medical professions now and, in the future, and to provide a rationale to position oral health professionals as partners within primary health care.”
The authors go on to say that the definition of oral health needs to align with the current definition of dentistry. That definition currently states, “dentists are responsible not only for the evaluation, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases and conditions of the oral cavity, the maxillofacial area and adjacent areas but also for assessing their impact on the human body.”
As new tests and knowledge in the area of oral health increases, the days of simply recording missing and decayed teeth and poking patients with instruments to chart periodontal (gum) issues may not be enough to best serve patients. What we can learn from things such as genetic testing and salivary diagnostics will change the way we interact with our medical colleagues and greatly benefit our patients.
In conclusion, the authors state, “As the definition of oral health evolves and likely will continue to evolve well into the future, no matter how oral health is defined, the message remains: Oral health is essential to an individual’s general health and quality of life.”
So, while the powers that be work on the definition of oral health, it is our individual responsibility to take care of ourselves. If we know that oral health is connected to the rest of the body and if we care enough to take care of our body, then regular professional maintenance and constantly improving our home care should be at the forefront of our self-care.
Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. He has a special interest in treating snoring, sleep apnea and TMJ problems. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have please email them to him at

Subscribe To Receive Our Newspaper Every Wednesday Morning FREE

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and newspaper within your emails.

You have Successfully Subscribed!