Oral Healthcare Today

The national concern has been translated into milestone developments in public oral healthcare of the MOH under the Five-Year Malaysia Plans. Both the public and private sectors provide oral healthcare today, with the Oral Health Programme, MOH assuming the role of lead agency for the profession. The private sector makes a significant contribution, especially in the well-populated urban areas.


7.1 Public-Private Mix


In the early days, the public sector dominated oral healthcare. The balance of private-public sector involvement has seen many changes through various economic climates. At the end of 2000, the balance favoured the private sector. However, the trend has reverted back to the government sector since 2008, which is due to the compulsory service introduced in 2001.


The government not only provides healthcare but also ensures the dissemination of health education. This policy led to the establishment of a Dental Health Education Unit in 1979 at the then Dental Division, Ministry of Health. In 1994, the Unit was re-designated Oral Health Promotion Unit to better reflect its scope of responsibilities in advocating health with an emphasis on oral health. Similarly in 1996, the Dental Division justified a change of nomenclature to the Oral Health Division (OHD) to reflect the holistic concept of oral health as part of general health. On 1st April 2016, the Oral Health Programme was restructured into three (3) divisions under the Principal Director of Oral Health, i.e. the Oral Health Policy and Strategic Planning Division, the Oral Healthcare Division and the Oral Health Practice and Development Division.



7.2 Professional Organisation


The development of oral healthcare has been greatly facilitated by the establishment of professional organisations, the largest being the Malaysian Dental Association (MDA). The MDA evolved from its precursor, the Malayan Dental Association that was officially inaugurated in 1938. Professor Edgar K. Tratman was its first President. The name change came in 1963 with the official formation of Malaysia.


The MDA today represents about 80% of qualified dental practitioners. The association contributes towards the advancement of the profession in this country. Currently there are many other dental organisations representing various interest groups and clinical specialities.



7.3 Operationalising Oral Healthcare in the Public Sector


The MOH shoulders the major responsibility for provision of oral healthcare. This large public sector participation gives rise to different modalities of operationalising oral healthcare. The major initiatives in primary oral healthcare of the MOH have been:


  • The water fluoridation programme, officially approved as a Cabinet Committee policy in 1972.
  • Integrated oral health promotion and curative care Outreach programmes, providing oral healthcare outside the confines of the dental clinic. 
  • Decentralised oral healthcare through various types of dental facilities. 
  • The establishment of a comprehensive referral system from primary to specialist oral healthcare. 
  • The establishment of a comprehensive, systematic Incremental Dental Care Programme for schoolchildren.



7.4 Oral Health Status


The development of dentistry in Malaysia has seen much improvement in the oral health status of Malaysians. To date, 12 dental public health surveys have been undertaken to chart the changes in various oral health status parameters. Data documented since the first schoolchildren dental survey in 1970-1971 and that of a survey in 1973 shows a caries decline ranging from 27% in deciduous teeth of 6-year-olds to 57% in permanent teeth of 12-year-olds. Based on various national oral health surveys conducted (below), the caries prevalence of Malaysians has reduced over the years. On the other hand, periodontal disease is increasing and has become another important Oral Health Programme agenda.


The Oral Health Status of Malaysians


Target Groups


Caries Prevalence



Periodontal Disease Prevalence


Pre-school Children

(5 year-olds)











School Children

(12 year-olds)

















(> 15 year-olds)














*NOHSA 1974/75 and NOHSS 1970/71 were conducted in Peninsular Malaysia only.

**N/A = not available.

Sources: National Oral Health Surveys, Ministry of Health Malaysia



7.5 Oral Health Promotion Efforts


The focus of oral healthcare has increasingly shifted from a mainly curative approach during the early days, to preventive and promotive approaches in the latter years. Some of the recent oral health promotion initiatives include :


  • Dental Icons (iGG) or dental advocators through community empowerment, 
  • Transformation with 1 Smile Together (TW1ST) involving the college community students, 
  • Oral Health Programme for Trainee Teachers, 
  • Tobacco cessation program (KOTAK) for school children, 
  • Collaborations of Oral Health Programme with Religious Organizations (KOA), and 
  • Dental Buskers, where oral health care and promotion is disseminated through music.


Some of the recent oral health promotion collaboration efforts include:

  • Kembara Kesihatan Malaysia - with the Department of Social Welfare, Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, Malaysia
  • Young Doctor Programme with the Ministry of Education Malaysia
  • Jom Heboh, Raudhah dihatiku and School Attack Prograame with Media Prima Berhad,
  • Mouth Cancer Awareness Week (MCAW) with the Oral Cancer Research and Coordinating Centre, Malaysia (OCRCC),
  • Kuala Lumpur Car Free Morning (KLCFM) with Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL)
  • AEON'S Oral Health Programme with AEON Fantasy Malaysia Sdn Bhd.



The Oral Health Programme has also moved a step further in promoting oral health through Dentistry Going Digital: Connecting the Community, which was officially launched by the Hon. Minister of Health Dato' Seri Dr. Dzulkefly Ahmad on 20 August 2018. This involved 2 mobile apps – MyGusi (Periodontic Specialist) and MyOrtho (Orthodontic Specialist) and 2 videos from the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Specialist and the Restorative Specialist fraternity.  


Nowadays, interactions between public and dental professionals are further enhanced through social media platforms namely Oral Health Programme Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and MyGG Channel. In fact, Facebook live has been a common platform for interactive knowledge sharing with netizens.


Oral healthcare delivery for the lower socio-economic group, targeting the B40 in the Projek Perumahan Rakyat, was initiated in 2018. This is a collaborative project that involves other agencies such as Resident’s Associations and City/Municipal Councils. Basic dental treatment and oral health promotion are provided through scheduled visits, utilising mobile dental clinics, mobile dental teams and mobile dental labs.




7.6 Planning the Future : The National Oral Health Plan


The government aspires to achieve a developed nation status by 2020. It is from Vision 2020 that the Oral Health Division has taken the lead to formulate a National Oral Health Plan (NOHP) for year 2010. The NOHP documents oral health goals and strategies. Goals are defined for four key oral conditions; dental caries, periodontal conditions, oral malignancies and dental injuries. The Plan also outlines strategies to ensure that all stakeholders will play their respective roles towards improving oral health and the quality of life of Malaysians.

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Last Updated : 18 April 2022


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