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Translating science into action: periodontal health through public health approaches


  • Nanna Jürgensen,

  • Poul E. Petersen,

  • Hiroshi Ogawa,

  • Sayaka Matsumoto


Clinical and public health research data have shown that a number of individual, professional and community health measures may be valuable in preventing the major oral diseases. The fundamental gap in knowledge, however, is not confined to ‘what to do’ but rather ‘how’ to translate the scientific findings into effective and sustainable programs for groups and populations. The advances in oral health science have not yet benefitted the poor and disadvantaged population groups around the world to the fullest extent possible and this has led to inequalities in periodontal health as well as in other chronic diseases. Research on the causative role of tobacco use in periodontal disease is strong because of the fact that tobacco-induced disease ultimately may lead to the loss of teeth. Studies also indicate that wound healing may be negatively affected by the use of tobacco. Likewise, research has shown that extreme use of alcohol, poor diet and nutrition, and psychological stress all have negative effects on periodontal health. Research on sociobehavioral risk factors has great implication to prevent periodontal disease. The case for tobacco is illustrated in this report. The global exposure to tobacco use in adults and adolescents is outlined. Because of the global Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (2003), the solid research on the harmful effect of tobacco is now being widely used for public health. The importance of tobacco prevention within the context of health-promoting schools is emphasized. Research on other population-directed strategies and their implications on public health would be instrumental to integrated prevention of chronic disease and periodontal disease. Community interventions and delivery of preventive oral care by oral health services may have positive outcomes for periodontal health but periodontal research needs to be further strengthened by the provision of sound evidence. It is somewhat remarkable that research on true population-directed actions in prevention of periodontal disease is most unusual. The high need for reorientation of periodontal research toward public health is discussed in this report as well as the responsibilities of oral health organizations, research institutions and health authorities.