What can you do to champion oral health?

By Ian Epondulan, Chair of the Oral Health Promotion and Public Health Committee (OHPPHC) of the DHAA Ltd.

Image from: https://www.worldoralhealthday.org

With World Oral Health Day March 20, 2020 coming up now is the perfect time to be asking yourself, what can you do champion oral health?

World Oral Health Day (WOHD) is celebrated globally every year on 20 March. It is organised by the FDI World Dental Federation and is the largest global awareness campaign on oral health. WOHD spreads messages about good oral hygiene practices to adults and children alike and demonstrates the importance of optimal oral health in maintaining general health and well-being. Each year, WOHD focuses on a specific theme and reaches out to the public, oral health professionals, and policymakers, who all have a role to play in helping reduce the burden of oral disease. This year’s theme for 2020 is “Say Ahh: Unite For Mouth Health” and we encourage everyone to make a pledge for oral health.

So why should we care about telling our patients, family and friends about the importance of looking after their oral health?

Oral health is a key indicator of overall health, wellbeing and quality of life. 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 decay, tooth loss, and other diseases and disorders that limit an individual’s capacity in biting, chewing, smiling, speaking, and psychosocial wellbeing.1

“The Global Burden of Disease Study 2016 estimated that oral diseases affected at least 3.58 billion people worldwide, with caries of the permanent teeth being the most prevalent of all conditions assessed.2 Globally, it is estimated that 2.4 billion people suffer from caries of permanent teeth and 486 million children suffer from caries of primary teeth.” 2

We know that periodontal disease affects the tissues that both surround and support the tooth and often presents as bleeding or swollen gums (gingivitis), pain and sometimes as bad breath. “Severe periodontal disease, which may result in tooth loss, was the 11th most prevalent disease globally in 2016.”2 “The main causes of periodontal disease are poor oral hygiene and tobacco use.” 3

We know too that dental caries and periodontal diseases are major causes of tooth loss. “Severe tooth loss and edentulism was one of the leading ten causes of Years Lived with Disability (YLD) in some high income countries due to their aging populations.”2

“Most oral diseases and conditions share modifiable risk factors (such as tobacco use, alcohol consumption and unhealthy diets high in free sugars) common to the four leading NCDs (cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes). In addition, it is reported that diabetes mellitus is linked in a reciprocal way with the development and progression of periodontitis. Moreover, there is a causal link between high sugars consumption and diabetes, obesity and dental caries.” 4, 5

So what are we doing as the Dental Hygienists Association of Australia (DHAA Ltd.) to create awareness about WOHD?

During the month of March, DHAA members will have an opportunity to celebrate WOHD by attending their state or territory’s event.

ACT – March 18: 5:30-9:30pm - WOHD Dinner: Anxiety and EMDR Treatment Update at Duxton Hotel, O’Connor.

WA – March 18: 6-9pm – WOHD: Remineralisation: building blocks for the future at Pagoda Resort and Spa, Como.

SA – March 18: 6-9pm – WOHD: March Supper: Changes to the infection control guidelines at The Hilton Hotel, Hilton.

NSW – March 18: 6-9:30pm – WOHD: Orofacial Myology, Primus Hotel, Sydney.

VIC – March 21-22: 8:30am-4:30pm – DHAA VIC & ADOHTA – Unite for Mouth Health at View Melbourne, Melbourne.

QLD – March 21: 9:30am-12pm – WOHD Brunch: The role of Oral Health in Domestic Violence Prevention at WOTSO Workspace, Chermside.

NT – March 21: DHAA & ADA NT WOHD Brunch & Learn, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Esplanade, Darwin.


How is the DHAA reaching out to our non-dental professionals and the general public?

The Oral Health Promotion and Public Health Committee (OHPPHC) of the DHAA Ltd. have organised a free live interactive CPD webinar on March 19, 7-8:30pm AEDT providing an oral health update targeted towards non-dental professionals. An invitation has been sent to allied health professional associations: dieticians, speech pathologists, diabetic educators, occupational therapists, pharmacists, nurses, GPs and psychologists to share with their members and provide an ideal opportunity for all health professional groups to get together to increase their awareness in oral health and to build bridges across health disciplines.

Participants will be able to:
  1. Outline the oral health status of all Australians at different age groups
  2. Describe key research findings on impact of oral diseases on other medical conditions
  3. List key risk factors affecting oral diseases
  4. Summarise the roles and functions of key dental practitioners and services in Australia
  5. Identify appropriate oral health referral pathways for at risk patients and groups


The DHAA continues to build relations with other allied health professional associations through the “Rethink Sugary Drink Alliance”, an initiative comprising of 19 national and state-based like-minded health and community organisations concerned about the amount of sugar in sugary drinks and their overconsumption by Australians leading to chronic health conditions. “Rethink Sugary Drink aims to raise awareness among all Australians on the amount of sugar in sweetened beverages (such as soft drink, energy drinks and sports drinks) and the associated health risks, with young Australians being the primary target. The partnership encourages Aussies to rethink their sugary drink consumption and switch to water, reduced-fat milk or unsweetened options.” A position statement can be found here.

Recently the 2020 Australian of the Year, ophthalmologist James Muecke lobbied hard for measures to tackle obesity, which can cause type 2 diabetes which in turn can cause blindness and called for a tax on sugar. In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s The 7.30 Report he said “Diabetes is now affecting one in 10 of our population. Every year I’m seeing more and more patients who are losing vision as a result of this disease, a disease which is actually entirely preventable. The government can help by reducing the time and space for sweet products, particularly during children’s TV. I think we need to have a clearer labelling system of sweet products, and for those products with high sugar content, taxing would be very important to help people choose lower sugar alternatives”. 7 It’s great to see that we are united with our allied health colleagues in prevention.

Our oral health advocacy will continue through launching our new Consumer DHAA website at the DHAA National Symposium at Melbourne in October 2020 as well as an exciting oral health promotion panel session as part of the CPD program in line with the conference theme of “Laneways to better oral health” involving a dietician, speech pathologist and an occupational therapist. You don’t want to miss it!

So what can you do as an individual to create awareness for oral health especially with WOHD coming up?

  1. Attend your state or territory DHAA event celebrating WOHD
  2. Visit worldoralhealthday.org and make your pledge online as part of the WOHD 2020 Campaign!
  3. Share with us any photos or ideas you and your practice is doing to promote WOHD!
  4. Use social media to communicate and share key messages in the lead up to and on the day of WOHD!
  • Use hashtags: #WOHD20, #UniteForMouthHealth, #OralHealth
  • Tweets/messages (feel free to adapt):
  • This #WOHD20 we pledge to integrate essential #OralHealth services into our national Universal Health Coverage package
  • We pledge to implement a national #OralHealth plan to improve the lives and health of our citizens. #WOHD20
  • We pledge to #UniteForMouthHealth and introduce policies to address the over-consumption of sugar. #WOHD20
  • Half the people in the world suffer from oral diseases such as #ToothDecay and #GumDisease. Don’t take #OralHealth for granted – make a pledge for #WOHD now
  • We are part of the global movement to #UniteForMouthHealth. Our collective efforts and pledges will lead to happier, healthier lives. #WOHD208

We look forward to hearing about how you will be celebrating World Oral Health Day this March 20, 2020!


World Health Organization. World Oral Health Report 2003. Published 2003. https://www.who.int/oral_health/publications/world-oral-health-report-2003/en/

GBD 2016 Disease and Injury Incidence and Prevalence Collaborators. Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 328 diseases and injuries for 195 countries, 1990-2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. Lancet. 2017;390(10100):1211-1259.

Petersen PE, Bourgeois D, Ogawa H, Estupinan-Day S, Ndiaye C. The global burden of oral diseases and risks to oral health. Bull World Health Organ. 2005;83(9):661-669.

Taylor GW, Borgnakke WS. Periodontal disease: associations with diabetes, glycemic control and complications. Oral Dis. 2008;14(3):191-203.

Sanz M, Ceriello A, Buysschaert M, et al. Scientific evidence on the links between periodontal diseases and diabetes: Consensus report and guidelines of the joint workshop on periodontal diseases and diabetes by the International Diabetes Federation and the European Federation of Periodontology. J Clin Periodontol. 2018;45(2):138-149.

Rethink Sugary Drink Alliance. About. Published 2020. Available at: http://www.rethinksugarydrink.org.au/about.

Angelique Donnellan. Australian of the Year James Muecke forced to give up surgery due to neurological condition. ABC News. Posted 27 January 2020. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-27/james-muecke-gives-up-surgery-due-to-health-condition/11903222.

FDI World Dental Federation. WORLD ORAL HEALTH DAY 2020 - ACTION TOOLKIT FOR POLICYMAKERS AND GOVERNMENTS. Published 2020. Available at: https://www.worldoralhealthday.org/sites/default/files/assets/WOHD20_Action%20toolkit%20for%20policymakers%20and%20governments_EN.pdf