The new oral health consensus statement
The all-new oral consensus statement for Australia was launched on Monday 7 August, the first day of Dental Health Week, at Parliament House in Canberra. The ADA was honoured to be joined at the announcement by Ged Kearney MP, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, and Senator Ross Cadell, who sits on the Select Committee into the Provision of and Access to Dental Services in Australia.
In 2009, a working group established by the National Oral Health Promotion Clearing House at The Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health, University of Adelaide developed a consensus statement on oral health messages for the Australian public. The consensus statement was highly effective, and enabled a focused and strategic approach to oral health promotion in Australia.
However, in the many years since the statement was put together, the evidence base underpinning oral health promotion in Australia developed markedly, and therefore an update of the consensus statement was needed.
The statistics on public oral health in Australia also pointed to an increased need for a focused and strategic approach to oral health promotion, to deliver consistent, evidence-based oral health messages across different states and sectors. In 2019-2020, for example, the combined expenditure on dental disease in Australia was AU$9.5 billion dollars; it was reported that around 4 in 10 people over the age of 15 years avoided or delayed visiting a dentist due to cost.
The Australian Dental Association (ADA) took the lead in updating this consensus statement, working with the Melbourne Dental School at the University of Melbourne. The Melbourne Dental School started by putting together a collaborative expert group, which then worked to update key oral health messages for the Australian public.
Dental Health Week 2023, this month, has coincided with the launch of the Oral Health Messages for Australia – a National Consensus Statement. These messages were led by the ADA with the University of Melbourne as research partner, in recognition of the evolving evidence base and needs of Australians since the first statements were published in 2011.
The Oral Health Messages were launched on the first day of Dental Health Week at a Parliamentary Breakfast with the intention of advocating for stakeholders to consider the barriers to improved oral health in Australia, and recognise the largely preventable nature of oral health conditions. These messages serve as a framework for health practitioners and health promoters to use in confidence of the evidence base supporting them and the consensus reached by the oral health professionals advising the process.
Dr Mihiri Silva, consultant paediatric dentist and clinician-scientist fellow at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Royal Children’s Hospital, and Divisional Lead Cariology, Population Health & Oral Health at Melbourne Dental School, University of Melbourne, who is also Chair of the ADA Oral Health Committee was instrumental in the formation of the Oral Health Messages, alongside her advisory committee members.
“It’s so exciting to have a consolidated framework for oral health promotive messages that meet the requirements of the Australian public, facilitate discussions around oral health care and support preventive treatment options,” says Dr Silva.
“I think advocacy is also a really fundamental part of these consensus statements. Because I think we were able to bring a good evidence-based approach for the importance of oral health as a benefit of prevention, it should bring a clear message that we should be investing in prevention in terms of government policy, funding, even just how services are structured. These key messages should help ensure that prevention is recognised for the real, fundamental part it plays in making sure people have good oral health, as well as overall health and wellbeing.
“The statement will hopefully empower people in the community, as well as people who are advocates for oral health, of course – dental practitioners and clinicians, researchers and academics – to come together and promote oral health to those who take the decisions in forming policies and health services in Australia.”
Where to from here?
The Oral Health Messages will be implemented in all ADA resources available within the organisation, and to the Australian public. The aim is to use these messages in collaboration with other health organisations (such as the Australian Medical Association and the Cancer Council, as examples) to implement a truly multidisciplinary and wide-ranging approach to oral health.