Innovation Matters
oral health mh L

Apr 06, 2017

The challenge of improving three billion people’s oral health

Estimated reading time: 6-8 minutes

Recent research from the FDI World Dental Federation found that oral disease affects 3.9 billion people worldwide, and untreated tooth decay impacts almost half of the world’s population (44%).

During this year’s International Dental Show (IDS), March 21-25 in Germany, Egbert Van Acht, Business Group Leader for Philips Health & Wellness, presented Philips Oral Healthcare’s ambition to improve three billion people’s oral health by 2025. We discuss with him the news and trends from the world’s leading dental trade show and what it means for improving oral health globally.

Following IDS, how is the oral healthcare industry changing?

IDS 2017 is a fantastic event and with new products, new research and new partnerships announced, it provides a great insight into the future direction of oral healthcare. Following this years’ conference, there are three key trends that are having an exciting influence on the future of oral health.  


The first is a rise in digital technology and how it is disrupting traditional products, using smart sensors and data. The second is a shift in focus on prevention rather than treatment and ways to assist early diagnosis. And finally greater collaborationbetween brands and dental practitioners is key to continue to deliver solutions that make a difference.


These advancements should all lead to dramatic improvements in the standards of patients’ oral health. However, I believe that there are some important hurdles to overcome before this is the case.

Globally there is still a disparity between patients’ knowledge and understanding of how to improve their oral health, and the products and services available to them."

Additionally, we know that even when patients have an understanding of good oral health practices, acting on them can be difficult: 77% know that it’s good oral health practice to visit a dentist once a year, however, only 52% tend to go.  


These concerns were also shared with some of the dental professionals and key opinion leaders at the show. Even the most engaged and committed patients find it difficult and frustrating tackling oral healthcare problems. Do we need to encourage more regular check-ups? Or do we help patients’ in-between their appointments? Or both?

Digital technology seems to be a hot topic. How do you see it shaping the future of oral healthcare?

Across the healthcare spectrum digital technology is having a big impact. In oral healthcare we’re particularly interested in how it is increasing the focus on early diagnosis. Rather than drills, injections and painful procedures, it encourages prevention; be that changes in brushing technique, early identification of risk areas or changes to diet and lifestyle.


Importantly, digital technology is not only having an impact in the clinic. Patients are increasingly able to use the data captured from digital technology to better understand the causes of poor oral health. This can help them to recognize the long term benefits of building healthy habits from an early age. Our new Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart is one example of this. It uses smart sensors to track daily brushing routines and techniques and allows patients to measure their progress and results. It is one part of our complete oral care offer that gives patients a complete overview of the status of their oral health. 

DiamondClean Smart

Advances in digital technology are exciting but it is important to make sure they are making a difference to patient care, if they are to help us achieve our ultimate goal. We hold this central to our product development and are constantly focused on developing innovations that make a difference, using the right digital technology, for an impactful purpose.

What does the rise of digital technology mean for the relationship between DPs and patients?

We’ve seen from the rise in popularity in health apps, patients are seeking more information and are increasingly used to getting data about their health and wellness. This also applies to their oral health and products that educate, monitor and guide them to better health will grow in demand.


Smart data allows patients to measure and understand how well they are taking care of their oral health in-between visits to their dental practitioner. For example, the smart sensors in the Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart measure and track pressure, scrubbing and the location of the brush head in each brushing session. They alert users to when they are not using the best brushing technique. For the first time these results can be shared with dental practitioners meaning they will be able to set performance goals and track their patients’ progress against them.

While this change is very exciting, we believe it will only be a success if digital technology is developed in consultation and partnership with dental practitioners. If we can achieve this, we can harness this new approach to globally improve overall standards of oral healthcare."

Philips’ new clinical research focuses on plaque removal and gingivitis – do you think enough has been done to date to help patients tackle these diseases?

We know that it can be very difficult to convince patients to change entrenched behaviors and routines. While plaque removal and gingivitis are important diseases to address, these can be improved by getting the basic techniques correct and increasing overall patient engagement.


For example, the majority of patients still use a manual toothbrush rather than a power toothbrush. From our clinical data and research, we know that using a power toothbrush provides a better and more exceptional clean. Our Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart removes up to ten times more plaque than a manual toothbrush[1], with up to 100% better stain removal in just three days, and up to seven times better gum health in just two weeks[2]


We believe that helping patients make informed decisions will help them in tackling these diseases. This is why we work with 1,500 scientists and 250 universities and institutes globally and base all our innovations on clinical evidence. If we can evidence the improvements, we can start to help patients change their home-care regime.


[1] Philips data on file, PRC study

[2] Philips data on file, MAH-16-0188

About Innovation Matters

Innovation Matters delivers news, opinions and features about healthcare, and is focused on the professionals who work within the industry, as well as Philips as a cutting-edge health technology organization. From interviews with industry giants to how-to guides and features powered by Philips data, our goal is to deliver interesting, educational and entertaining content to empower and inspire all those who work in healthcare or related industries.


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Egbert van Acht

Egbert van Acht

Business Leader Health & Wellness Royal Philips

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