Nearly half of the world suffers from dental problems

Nearly half of the world suffers from dental problems
Credit: Anthony Dehez / Belga

Some 3.5 billion people suffer from oral diseases, making it the most prominent health concern throughout the world, regardless of whether a country is classified as a World Bank lower-income country or a higher-income country, according to a new report by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The Global Oral Health Status Report analysed key areas and markers throughout 194 countries. The analysis shows, among other insights, that cases have increased by one billion over the last 30 years. WHO explained the main reason is many people do not have access to prevention and treatment.

The most common oral diseases are gum disease, tooth loss and oral cancers, while tooth decay is the single most common condition around the world, affecting an estimated 2.5 billion people regardless of region or income level.

The dental barriers

Only a small percentage of the global population is covered for essential oral health services.

Other barriers include extremely high costs for dental care, leading to financial burdens for families and communities as well as highly specialised high-tech equipment which is usually very expensive and not well integrated into primary healthcare models.

Additionally, poor information and surveillance systems combined with oral health research not being a priority add to the barriers to dental hygiene accessibility.

"Oral health has long been neglected in global health, but many oral diseases can be prevented and treated with cost-effective measures," said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, referring to measures in the report.

Addressing poor dental hygiene

Firstly, the report mentioned addressing common risk factors by promoting a well-balanced diet low in sugars, encouraging the population to stop using tobacco and reduce alcohol consumption, and lastly improving access to fluoride toothpaste.

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Other solutions mentioned in the report include supporting the inclusion of oral health as part of national health services, expanding oral health service coverage and redefining oral health workforces to respond to population needs.

Lastly, the report calls for the collection and integration of oral health data into national health monitoring systems.


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