FDI's definition of oral health

Oral health is an important contributor to overall health and well-being, and thus needs to be properly defined, assessed, managed and promoted. However, an understanding of what is meant by, and the implications of, oral health may differ among different stakeholders.

FDI's definition is an attempt to propose a universally applicable and acceptable definition of oral health to:

  • more clearly position oral health within health;
  • demonstrate that oral health does not occur in isolation, but is an important part of overall health and well-being;
  • raise awareness of the different dimensions of oral health as a dynamic construct; and
  • empower patients by acknowledging how individual’s values, perceptions and expectations impact oral health.

Importantly, this definition lays the foundation for the future development of standardized assessment and measurement tools. 

What is 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.

Further attributes related to the definition state 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 individuals and communities;
  • reflects the physiological, social and psychological attributes that are essential to the quality of life;
  • is influenced by the individual’s changing experiences, perceptions, expectations and ability to adapt to circumstances.

FDI's oral health definition and companion framework are available for download in multiple languages as a PowerPoint presentation:

> Download the Oral Health Definition Executive Summary.

> Read A new definition for oral health developed by the FDI World Dental Federation opens the door to a universal definition of oral health, 2016 International Dental Journal, 66: 322–324

Way forward

FDI's oral health definition and its companion framework lay a solid basis, which can now be built upon to start measuring oral health in a coherent, valid and comparable way. The next phase of the project, to be completed in 2017, will focus on the development of a standard measurement instrument that can be applied across countries and across settings.

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