- World Oral Health Day is celebrated across the globe on 20th March every year
- Its major objective is to create awareness about the importance of maintaining good oral health
- It aims to bring down the burden of oral diseases across the globe
World Oral Health Day is held on 20th March every year. This international day is the largest global awareness campaign on oral health. It provides an ideal platform for healthcare professionals, policymakers, and the general public, among other stakeholders to promote oral health for everyone and reduce the global burden of oral diseases.
World Oral Health Day is organized by FDI World Dental Federation, which is based in Geneva, Switzerland and is the largest dental organization, representing over 1 million dentists worldwide. Its membership includes over 200 dental associations across 130 countries. It spreads the message about the importance of oral hygiene practices in maintaining overall health and wellbeing. It is also the major driving force behind advocacy efforts, health policy development and promotion of educational programs pertaining to oral health at the global level.
Objective and Theme of World Oral Health DayThe main objective of World Oral Health Day is to raise awareness by encouraging various stakeholders to make commitments for promoting good oral health at the local, national and international levels.
History of World Oral Health DayThe plan to dedicate a whole day exclusively for celebrating and promoting oral health at the global level was declared by the FDI World Dental Federation in 2007. The first few celebrations took place on 12th September, which coincided with the birthday of Dr. Charles Godon - the Founder of the FDI World Dental Federation. From 2013, the date of the World Oral Health Day celebrations was shifted to 20th March, which has been followed ever since.
There is an interesting anecdote on how the date '20th March' was fixed. The date came into being, based on a dentist's standard recommendation that all healthy adults should have '32' teeth and '0' cavities. This can also be written as '3/20' - the 3rd month (March) and the 20th Day - which translates into '20th March'!
Why is Oral Health Important?Oral health is important because it contributes to the overall health and wellbeing of an individual and ensures a good quality of life.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines oral health as: "A state of being free from chronic mouth and facial pain, oral and throat cancer, oral infection and sores, periodontal (gum) disease, tooth loss, tooth decay and other diseases and disorders that limit an individual's capacity in biting, chewing, smiling, speaking, and psychosocial wellbeing."
Besides the above functions, the muscles of the oral cavity and cheeks also allow a person to convey a wide range of emotions through complex facial expressions. Therefore, it is important to keep the mouth and oral cavity in pristine condition by practicing proper mouth hygiene and regular visits to the dentist.
Oral Health: Key Facts & Figures
- Oral diseases are the most common non-communicable diseases (NCDs)
- Oral diseases cause pain, suffering, disfiguration and even death
- 90 percent of the global population suffer from oral diseases sometime in their life
- 50 percent of the world's population (3.58 billion people) suffer tooth decay (dental caries)
- Periodontal (gum) disease is the 11th most prevalent disease worldwide
- Oral cancer ranks within the top 3 of all cancers in the Asia-Pacific region
- Dental treatment accounts for 5 percent of total health expenditure in most high-income countries
- Dental treatment accounts for 20 percent of out-of-pocket medical expenses in most high-income countries
- Oral healthcare demands are beyond the capacity of health systems in most low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)
- Inequities in oral health exist within and between different populations across the world
- Oral health is strongly impacted by social determinants
- Oral health is strongly influenced by behavioral risk factors - tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol and diets high in free sugars
- Lack of fluoride in toothpaste can lead to tooth decay
Pledges on World Oral Health DayA major focus of this year's World Oral Health Day celebrations is making pledges by members of the society to look after their oral health for leading a better quality of life. Some of these pledges are indicated below:
- Professional: Make time to visit the dentist every 6 months
- Dentist: Inspire patients to look after their mouth
- Senior: Keep mouth healthy throughout life
- Child: Brush teeth every morning and night
- Teen: Cut down on sugary treats and drinks
- Policymaker: Champion oral health policies
Strategies for Improving Oral Health: Role of Policymakers and GovernmentsWorld Oral Health Day encourages policymakers to reduce the global oral disease burden by framing effective and actionable health policies. Some of these are highlighted below:
- Transparency in Food Labeling: Since 'added sugar' is a major cause of tooth decay, it should be ensured that labels on food packages clearly state how much 'free sugars' are present in the food item
- Elimination of Taxes on Fluoride Toothpaste: Since fluoride toothpaste is a highly effective health intervention for prevention of tooth decay and gum disease, taxes and tariffs should be removed - as advised by WHO - to make this commodity more cheaper so that it is accessible even to the poorest of the poor
- Alignment of Oral Health Policies with other NCDs: Research shows that oral diseases can lead to other non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, respiratory diseases, and even cancer. Therefore, it is logical to align oral health policies with that of other NCDs
- Bringing Oral Healthcare Under Universal Health Coverage (UHC): Bringingoralcare services under UHC will enable people from poor communities to access these services. This will significantly reduce existing disparities and inequities in access to oral healthcare
Tips for Maintaining Good Oral Health
- Brush Your Teeth Twice a Day: Brushing your teeth for 2-3 minutes in the morning and night with fluoride toothpaste will significantly reduce your chances of tooth decay and gum disease
- Be Aware How Much Fluoride is Present in Your Toothpaste: The fluoride content of your toothpaste should be between 1000-1500 parts per million (ppm). Any deviation from this range can have negative effects on oral health. Hence, before buying, check the package labeling to ensure that the toothpaste contains the correct amount of fluoride
- Know the Correct Amount of Toothpaste to Use: The requisite amount of toothpaste for maintaining good oral health should fill the entire length of the head portion of your toothbrush
- Know How to Keep Your Teeth Clean While Traveling: When brushing isn't possible, such as when traveling, you can rinse your mouth with a fluoride mouthwash or chew sugar-free gum after meals and snacks
- You Should Clean Between Your Teeth: It is important to clean between your teeth using dental floss. This will dislodge any food particles and remove plaque that can lead to gum disease and bad breath
- Limit your Intake of Sugar: Sugar corrodes the enamel of your teeth. So, it's important to limit your intake of sugar to approximately 6 teaspoons daily. Also, be aware that snacks, processed food and soft drinks also contain 'hidden' sugar that is not always apparent
- Avoid Tobacco and Alcohol: Don't use tobacco and limit your intake of alcohol, as both increase the risk of gum disease and oral cancer. Additionally, smoking causes staining of teeth, bad breath, premature tooth loss, and loss of taste and smell sensations
- Visit Your Dentist Regularly: Visit your dentist every 6 months for check-ups. This will help in prevention, early detection, and timely treatment for ensuring better outcomes and reducing the risk of oral diseases, especially cancer
ConclusionIt's never too early or too late to start taking care of your oral health. So, it's important to put into practice the tips provided above to protect your teeth and oral cavity.
So, on World Oral Health Day, let's get together to raise global awareness about issues surrounding oral health and lay stress on the importance of oral hygiene for promoting, not just oral health, but also overall health and wellbeing for leading a better quality of life.
Also, remember that there is a close link between our oral health and our overall health - "A healthy mouth and a healthy body go hand in hand."
- Oral Health - World Health Organization (WHO) - (https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/oral-health)
- Good Oral Care for Adults - (https://www.worldoralhealthday.org/sites/default/files/assets/WOHD19-checklists-adults-EN.pdf)
- About World Oral Health Day - (https://www.worldoralhealthday.org/about)
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Dr. Kaushik Bharati. (2020, March 19). World Oral Health Day: Letís Unite for Oral Health. Medindia. Retrieved on Jun 27, 2022 from https://www.medindia.net/news/healthwatch/world-oral-health-day-lets-unite-for-oral-health-193829-1.htm.
Dr. Kaushik Bharati. " World Oral Health Day: Letís Unite for Oral Health". Medindia. Jun 27, 2022. <https://www.medindia.net/news/healthwatch/world-oral-health-day-lets-unite-for-oral-health-193829-1.htm>.
Dr. Kaushik Bharati. " World Oral Health Day: Letís Unite for Oral Health". Medindia. https://www.medindia.net/news/healthwatch/world-oral-health-day-lets-unite-for-oral-health-193829-1.htm. (accessed Jun 27, 2022).
Dr. Kaushik Bharati. 2021. World Oral Health Day: Letís Unite for Oral Health. Medindia, viewed Jun 27, 2022, https://www.medindia.net/news/healthwatch/world-oral-health-day-lets-unite-for-oral-health-193829-1.htm.