The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Oral Health Programme has worked hard over the past 5 years to increase the awareness of oral health worldwide as oral health is important component of general health and quality of life. Meanwhile, oral disease is still a major public health problem in high income countries and the burden of oral disease is growing in many low- and middle income countries. In the World Oral Health Report 2003, the WHO Global Oral Health Programme formulated the policies and necessary actions to the continuous improvement of oral health. The strategy is that oral disease prevention and the promotion of oral health needs to be integrated with chronic disease prevention and general health promotion as the risks to health are linked. The World Health Assembly (WHA) and the Executive Board (EB) are supreme governance bodies of WHO and for the first time in 25 years oral health was subject to discussion by those bodies in 2007. At the EB120 and WHA60, the Member States agreed on an action plan for oral health and integrated disease prevention, thereby confirming the approach of the Oral Health Programme. The policy forms the basis for future development or adjustment of oral health programmes at national level. Clinical and public health research has shown that a number of individual, professional and community preventive measures are effective in preventing most oral diseases. However, advances in oral health science have not yet benefited the poor and disadvantaged populations worldwide. The major challenges of the future will be to translate knowledge and experiences in oral disease prevention and health promotion into action programmes. The WHO Global Oral Health Programme invites the international oral health research community to engage further in research capacity building in developing countries, and in strengthening the work so that research is recognized as the foundation of oral heath policy at global level.