WHO highlights oral health neglect affecting nearly half of the world’s population
The World Health Organization (WHO) has just released its latest Global Oral Health Status Report, which offers data profiles for 194 countries and the first-ever comprehensive picture of the burden of oral diseases. This report offers decision-makers special insights into important areas and markers of oral health.
According to the report, 3.5 billion people or 45% of the world’s population suffer from oral diseases, with three out of every four of these individuals living in low- and middle-income nations. The number of cases of oral diseases has increased by 1 billion globally over the past 30 years, which is a glaring sign that many people lack access to preventative care and effective treatments for these illnesses.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General have stated: “Oral health has long been neglected in global health, but many oral diseases can be prevented and treated with the cost-effective measures outlined in this report. WHO is committed to providing guidance and support to countries so that all people, wherever they live and whatever their income, have the knowledge and tools needed to look after their teeth and mouths, and to access services for prevention and care when they need them.”
Dental caries (tooth decay), advanced gum disease, tooth loss, and oral cancers are the most prevalent oral diseases. With an estimated 2.5 billion people affected, dental caries is the most prevalent condition that goes untreated globally. Globally, severe gum disease is thought to affect 1 billion people and is a major factor in total tooth loss. Each year, 380 000 new cases of oral cancer are identified.
The report highlights the obvious disparities in access to oral health care, with a significant burden of oral diseases and conditions affecting the most vulnerable and underprivileged populations.
The global oral health crisis is exacerbated by risk factors common to noncommunicable diseases like high sugar intake, tobacco use in all forms, and alcohol abuse.
Barriers to delivering oral health services
1. Paying for oral health care is expensive. This frequently has catastrophic financial consequences and places a heavy financial burden on families and communities.
2. Oral health services are not well integrated with primary health care models because they are primarily provided by highly specialized professionals using pricey high-tech tools and materials.
3. There are significant barriers to creating oral health interventions and policies that are more effective, including inadequate information and surveillance systems, low priority for public oral health research, and more.
Opportunities to improve global oral health
- Taking a public health approach to addressing common risk factors by encouraging a well-balanced diet low in sugars, quitting all tobacco use, consuming less alcohol, and expanding access to fluoride toothpaste that is both effective and affordable.
- Redefining oral health workforce models to meet population needs.
- Strengthening information systems by gathering and integrating oral health data into national health monitoring systems.
- Planning oral health services as part of national health and improving integration of oral health services in primary health care.