Open for discussion: We’ve come a long way, but what’s the next for oral health?


At the turn of the twentieth century, most people could expect to lose their teeth by middle age.

That situation began to change with the discovery of  fluoride, and the observation that people who lived in communities with naturally fluoridated drinking water had far less dental caries than people in comparable communities without fluoride in their water supply.

Community water fluoridation remains one of the great achievements of public health —an inexpensive means of improving oral health which benefits a community young and old, rich and poor alike.

Additional disease prevention measures also exist for dental caries and for many other oral diseases and disorders —measures that can be used by individuals, health care providers, and communities.

There can be no denying that the growth of biomedical research since WWII has brought about extraordinary advances in the health and well-being.

These advances have been particularly remarkable in the case of oral health, where we have gone from a nation plagued by the pains of toothache and tooth loss to a nation where most people can smile about their oral health.

The impetus for change was driven by the challenge of addressing oral diseases as well as the many other health problems that shorten lives and diminish well-being.

Beginning in the 1940s, research initially focused on dental caries and studies demonstrating the effectiveness of fluoride in preventing dental caries.

It was this research that ushered in a new era of health promotion and disease prevention.

This new focus on oral health led to the discovery of fluoride, which was soon complemented by research which showed both dental caries and periodontal diseases were bacterial infections that could be prevented by a combination of individual, community, and professional actions.

These and other applications of research discoveries have resulted in continuing improvements in the oral, dental, and craniofacial health.

Despite the advances in oral health that have been made over the last half century, there is still much work to be done.

Great progress has been made in reducing the extent and severity of common oral diseases.

However, not everyone is experiencing the same degree of improvement.

I’d like to open up the discussion and ask: Which area of oral health care requires the most improvement in modern dentistry?

I invite you to leave a comment here, or if you like, contact me on social media:

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