A NSW Government website


Oral Health Information

What is Oral Health?

Oral health refers to the health of your:

  • Teeth
  • Gums
  • Lips
  • Tongue
  • Muscles and bones in the mouth
  • Dentures

Oral health is a key indicator of overall health, well-being and quality of life.

Did you know?

  • Oral diseases like tooth decay and gum disease are among the most common diseases in the world affecting 3.5 billion people (World Health Organisation).
  • Poor oral health (mainly tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss) affects many Australian children and adults.
  • Untreated tooth decay in permanent teeth affects 35 per cent of the global population (2.4 billion people worldwide).
  • It is five times the prevalence of asthma among children and is the second most costly dietrelated disease in Australia.
  • Periodontitis/gum disease is the sixth-most prevalent health condition, affecting 10.8 per cent of people (743 million people worldwide).
  • Poor oral health, mainly gum disease, has been linked to many chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, stroke and pneumonia to name a few.

The good news is that 90 per cent of all dental diseases are preventable.


A child going for a high-five with a purple rabbit dentist mascot.
SydneyConnect Image: Dr Rabbit visiting our surgery

What Contributes to Poor Oral Health?

Many factors contribute to poor oral health, these include:

  • Consumption of food and drinks high in added sugars.
  • Smoking or consuming tobacco, and alcohol.
  • A lack of good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups.
  • Unable to access dental care.

What is Oral Health Promotion?

Oral health promotion is any combination of oral health education, information and interventions designed to help in the achievement of good oral health and the prevention of disease.

Many oral diseases, including tooth decay and gum disease, can be prevented through early detection and intervention. Preventative programs and services represent a sound investment in the health of the people.

Our Oral Health Service is committed to delivering prevention-centred care. we develop nutritional, lifestyle and behavioural interventions to help target and modify the disease risk, rather than its symptoms. 

Key priorities:

  • to provide equitable access.
  • to increase awareness in prevention and early intervention of tooth decay and gum disease.
  • to educate parents and caregivers through oral health promotion information sessions.
  • to provide staff with the training to enhance their knowledge and skills in oral health promotion, and to ensure that uniform messages are delivered into the community.
  • Commitment in oral health improvement and research.

Our Oral Health Promotion Programs

Oral Health Education

Our friendly Health Promotion team provides Oral Health Promotion Information Sessions to community groups and hosts oral health information stalls at community events. We cover a variety of topics and can cater specifically to your needs. 

Some of our key topics include:

  • Caring for your teeth
  • Maintaining a healthy mouth
  • Diet tips
  • Common oral disease
  • Denture care
  • Access to our services

How do I book an Oral Health Promotion Information Session?

To request a session at your facility or service please fill in our Oral Health Promotion Information Session request form. To find out more, please contact us at SLHD-SDH-OHP@health.nsw.gov.au

Early Childhood Oral Health Program

The aim of the Early Childhood Oral Health Program is to promote good oral health for infants and preschool children.

In partnership with the NSW Centre for Oral Health Strategy, the Early Childhood Oral Health Program supports the "Lift the Lip" campaign, training and educating child health workers to recognise early signs of tooth decay.

To learn more, please visit the What Child Health Professionals Need to Know online training program.

Fluoride Varnish Program

Early childhood caries is a preventable disease that disproportionately affects young children of lower socio-economic backgrounds and families with lower health literacy. We aimed to implement a sustainable program of dental screening with regular fluoride varnish applications, in combination with oral health education to counteract known caries risk factors in childhood. Four local preschools within lower socioeconomic areas in metropolitan Sydney participated in the pilot project. A novel approach with instant clinical photographs and iPads were also used to improve engagement between dental clinicians, and early childhood educator with vulnerable families.

Oral Health in Pregnancy

Pregnancy is an important time to be more aware of oral health. Poor oral health can affect pregnancy and increase the risk of children developing early childhood caries in their first 2000 days of life. Pregnant women are at risk of developing dental diseases including gingivitis and erosion. There are also links with poor oral hygiene and low birth weight and premature births. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience worse oral health outcomes than non-indigenous peoples. Poor oral health can also lead to other poor health outcomes (AIHW, 2022).

Pregnancy is a busy time for women and the importance of oral health can easily be forgotten. It is of upmost importance to ensure Aboriginal pregnant women receive appropriately timed dental visits to ensure any treatment required is completed during safe stages of pregnancy. Oral Health Services in collaboration with Aboriginal Maternity Unit at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital has developed a pathway to facilitate timely access to dental services at Dalarinji Oral Health clinic for Aboriginal women who are pregnant.

Smoking Cessation

Tobacco smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease and premature death in Australia. Up to two-thirds of deaths in current smokers in Australia are due to smoking. There are also emerging practices such as e-cigarette/vape use, shisha (water-pipe or hookah) smoking and betel nut/chewing tobacco, which may contain nicotine and/or tobacco.

A key strategy in reducing smoking rates and the adverse effects of tobacco in NSW is to support the delivery of brief interventions to help people quit smoking as part of routine care. Oral health professionals have a major role to play in smoking prevention and are well placed to give advice and support to their patients who want to stop smoking. Sydney Local Health District and Oral Health Services staff offer brief intervention at the chairside and referral to appropriate services like Quitline.

Oral Health Promotion among people at risk of homelessness

People experiencing homelessness and those at risk of homelessness are among Australia’s most socially and economically disadvantaged. Meeting basic physical needs such as food, water and a place to sleep can be the most important day-to-day priority for people experiencing homelessness, especially those rough sleeping, and subsequently health needs are often not considered until an emergency arises. Oral health of people with experience of homelessness often is poor and they are less likely to engage with oral health services. Sydney Local Health District and Oral Health Services has partnered with Foster House which is Inner City Men’s Accommodation Service Sydney Crisis and supported accommodation for men and Youth community centres that see at risk of homelessness youth. The project involved training the staff of both the services and residents of Foster House to increase their knowledge about oral health care, provide information about referral options, oral health information brochures and oral hygiene products.

Oral Health and Drug Health partnership

Drug use has a big impact on health and well-being of individual and the family. People suffering heroin addiction have increased risk of oral health issues, and methadone can cause oral health damage. Risk factors for poor oral health includes poor nutritional intake, chronic diseases, low level of literacy and challenging living conditions. There is a high rate of dental disease and hospitalisation. The aim of this Collaborative Model of Care are to increase and improve access to and provide timely oral care to drug health patients for urgent treatment by providing a referral pathway.

Oral Health and Mental Health collaboration

People living with a severe mental illness experience worse health outcomes than the rest of the population. Severe mental illness includes conditions like schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorders, bipolar disorders and some forms of depressions. In Australia, overall life expectancy has been reported to be 14-23 years less than the general population. People with severe mental illness are shown to have a significantly high prevalence of severe dental disease. Most common reasons are side effects of medications, lifestyle choices like smoking and drug use, poor nutrition, poor dental care, anxiety and lack of interest.

Sydney Local Health District- Oral Health Services is a collaborative partner in the Living Well Living Longer and Centre for Cardiometabolic Health in Psychosis (ccCHiP) programs that offer oral health treatment for people living with severe mental illness.

Brush Book Bed

Brush Book Bed is an initiative of the Sydney Local health District and Oral Health Services and focusses on preschool age children. The aim of the initiative is to raise awareness about the importance of maintaining good bedtime routines by linking messages of oral health, literacy and sleep hygiene. It communicates a simple message to families about the importance of having a night-time routine involving tooth brushing, reading and having a regular bedtime.

How to Look After Your Oral Health

You are the best person to look after your teeth and gums.

Follow simple steps:

  1. Brush your teeth morning and night. Did you know? Brushing your teeth removes germs that cause tooth decay and gum disease and gives you fresh breath.
  2. Brush your teeth for 2-3 minutes with a fluoride toothpaste in the morning after breakfast and at night before going to bed.
  3. Use a brush with small head and soft or medium bristles. Remember to change your brush every 3 months. Electric or battery-operated toothbrushes can be useful as they have a small head and soft bristles.
  4. If you wear dentures, clean them using dishwashing liquid or liquid soap, with a clean sponge or cloth. Remove the dentures at night.
  5. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Did you know? Crunchy fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots and cucumbers brings more saliva (spit) to your mouth. They also help to keep your teeth clean.
  6. If you have missing teeth or are unable to chew hard foods, choose soft food that are nutritious, such as porridge, soups, risotto, rice and lentils, and lasagne.
  7. Drink more water – choose tap water as your drink of choice. Did you know? Water helps keep your mouth hydrated, removes the germs from your mouth and helps to maintain neutral pH balance in your mouth. Choosing tap water instead of sugary drinks helps to keep the teeth strong. Tap water contains fluoride, strengthens your teeth and prevents cavities.
  8. For dry mouth, sip small amounts of water (few sips) throughout the day.

Oral Health Quiz

Useful Resources

Healthy Mouths Healthy Living

A healthy mouth is important for your overall health and well-being.

Healthy Kids for Professionals

Helping health professionals manage children above a healthy weight, and their families.

Healthy Eating Active Living

Healthy eating tips and free programs to get you active.

Rethink Sugary Drink

Learn more about how the consumption of sugary drinks can lead to tooth decay, and in the long run, unhealthy weight gain, increasing the risk of serious health problems.

Facts About Vaping

Key facts and resources to help educate young people, parents and carers, teachers and health professionals about vaping, and support for those who want to quit vaping.

Tobacco and Smoking Control in NSW

NSW Health's strategy, policy and laws on smoking and tobacco. 


A community for inspiration, support and encouragement to help you quit smoking.