© World Dental Federation

Oral health – why it can’t be ignored in the bigger health landscape

17th March 2016

Since 2007, dentists, oral health practitioners, dental students and members of the public have been celebrating World Oral Health Day – annually on March 20.

The aim is to encourage and support activities and initiatives aimed at increasing awareness about oral health as well as highlight the impact oral diseases have on general health, well-being and the economy.

Oral health is linked to general health - Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body

This year’s theme ‘Healthy Mouth. Healthy Body.’ is a reminder that poor oral health is related to general health and has been associated with a number of  conditions such as heart disease[i], pancreatic cancer[ii], pneumoniaiI and lung diseaseii.

Furthermore, there is an indicated link between good oral health and overall health:  In one study 40% of people with serious gum disease also reported suffering from an additional chronic condition.[iii] World Oral Health Day 2016 aims to educate people that good oral health goes beyond having a nice smile – it is fundamentally intertwined with overall well-being.

Dental practitioners have long been aware of the relationship between the mouth and the body: the FDI’s founding father opined that the dentist ‘is a little like a sentinel at the door of the human citadel … often it is he who sounds the first alarm that the whole organism is in danger’.

And this has certainly proved to be the case, for example, in the oral manifestations of HIV-AIDS[1] and, from early on, documented examples of the oral manifestations of diabetes mellitus[2]. FDI itself has also drawn attention to Oral Infection/Inflammation as a Risk Factor for Systemic Diseases[3].

But the relationship goes further. In 2011, United Nations member states recognized “that  renal,  oral  and  eye  diseases  pose  a  major  health  burden  for  many  countries  and  that  these  diseases  share  common  risk  factors  and  can  benefit from common responses to non-communicable diseases;”[4]

Collaboration between dental and other health sectors for better population health

This is why FDI believes that, working together with other medical specialties, we can highlight the dangers of certain behaviours and, through specific and targeted advocacy, achieve real changes in policy, with positive impacts for oral health and health in general.

For example, the recent announcement of a special tax on sugary drinks in the United Kingdom is a victory both in the fight against obesity and diabetes and against dental caries. Similarly, recent government tobacco control actions around the world favour not only cardio and respiratory health, they also support prevention and control of oral diseases and cancers of the oral cavity.

Pioneering preventative health

In 2012, WHO Director General Dr Margaret Chan pointed out that dentistry pioneered the concept of preventive medicine, turning it into an art as well as a science. On 20 march 2016, we will be celebrating World Oral Health Day. We hope that we can count on our partners in all the other medical professions to support this initiative, follow us on social media and learn more about how initiatives by the dental profession will have a positive impact in our common areas of concern, in particular non-communicable diseases.

#ItAllStartsHere #WOHD16


FDI has created a WOHD smartphone game called ‘Mad Mouths’, available under the same name at Apple Store and Google Play. If you want to view the short WOHD video (it’s fun), it is on You tube at:

English: https://youtu.be/hbYjljFW1VM

Spanish: https://youtu.be/T8UakFckL3c

French: https://youtu.be/9x8DPqS_wDM


About the Authors

World Oral Health Day Task Team. Chair: Edoardo Cavalle (Italy). Members: Awab Alvi (Pakistan), Ashok Dhoble (India), Ihsane Ben Yahya (Morocco), Duygu Ilhan (Turkey), Takashi Inoue (Japan) and Kathy Roth (United States).

About FDI World Dental Federation

FDI World Dental Federation serves as the principal representative body for over one million dentists worldwide. Its membership includes some 200 national member associations and specialist groups in over 130 countries. FDI’s vision: ‘leading the world to optimal oral health.’ www.fdiworldental.org.



[1] Early Detection of HIV Infection and Appropriate Care of Subjects with HIV infection/AIDS, FDI Policy Statement (2014) http://www.fdiworldental.org/media/55246/3-fdi_ps-hiv_approved_gab_2014.pdf.

[2] JADA, July 1, 1942, Volume 29, Issue 9, Pages 1188–1192. More recently Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. 2011 May; 11(2): 179–186.

[3] Oral Infection/Inflammation as a Risk Factor for Systemic Diseases, FDI Policy Statement (2013) http://www.fdiworldental.org/media/31112/oral_infection-inflammation_as_...

[4] Clause 19 of the 2011 United Nations Political Declaration on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (2011).

[i] Van Dyke, TE., Starr, JR. Unraveling the link between Periodontitis and Cardiovascular Disease. December 2013. Available from: http://jaha.ahajournals.org/content/2/6/e000657.short [Last accessed: December 2015]

[ii] The FDI Oral Health Atlas. April 2015. Available from: http://www.fdiworldental.org/media/77552/complete_oh_atlas.pdf [Last accessed: December 2015]

[iii] Bensley, L. VanEwyk, J and Ossiander, E.M. Associations of self-reported periodontal disease with metabolic syndrome and number of self-reported chronic conditions. May 2010. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2011/may/10_0087.htm [Last accessed: December 2015]