Oral Health Program: Background

The mission of the Oral Health Program is to promote and improve oral health for the benefit of all Wisconsin citizens. This is accomplished through policy development, technical assistance, needs assessment, training, education, and through the planning, implementation, and evaluation of preventive oral health programs.

Oral health is essential to the general health and well-being of all Wisconsin residents and can be achieved by all residents. The word oral refers to the mouth. The mouth includes not only the teeth and gums (gingiva) and their supporting tissues, but also the hard and soft palate, the mucosal lining of the mouth and throat, the tongue, the lips, the salivary glands, the chewing muscles, and the upper and lower jaws. Equally important are the branches of the nervous, immune, and vascular systems that animate, protect, and nourish the oral tissues, as well as provide connections to the brain and the rest of the body.

Oral health means much more than healthy teeth. It means being free of chronic oral-facial pain conditions, oral and pharyngeal (throat) cancers, oral soft tissue lesions, birth defects such as cleft lip and palate, and scores of other diseases and disorders.

Oral health is integral to general health. You cannot be healthy without oral health. Oral health and general health should not be interpreted as separate entities.

Safe and effective disease prevention measures exist that everyone can adopt to improve oral health and prevent disease. These measures include daily oral hygiene procedures and other lifestyle behaviors, community programs such as community water fluoridation and tobacco cessation programs, and provider-based interventions such as the placement of dental sealants and examinations for common oral and pharyngeal cancers.

General health risk factors, such as tobacco use and poor dietary practices, also affect oral and craniofacial health. The evidence for an association between tobacco use and oral diseases has been clearly identified.

There are profound and consequential oral health disparities within the population. Disparities for various oral conditions may relate to income, age, sex, race, or ethnicity, or medical status.

Last Revised: December 11, 2018