Globally, almost half of us neglect oral care: WHO report

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

In a first-ever comprehensive overview, the Global Oral Health Status Report analyzed key areas and characteristics in 194 countries, showing that the number of cases has increased by one billion over the past 30 years.

The WHO says the main reason is many people do not have access to prevention and treatment.

A billion with severe gingivitis

The most common oral diseases arise from dental cavities. Gum disease, tooth loss and oral cancer are among the most common oral diseases, while tooth decay is the most common disease worldwide, affecting an estimated 2.5 billion people.

Severe gum disease, a leading cause of total tooth loss, affects an estimated one billion people worldwide approximately 380,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year.

Eye-catching inequalities

The report points to unequal access to oral health care, with vulnerable and disadvantaged populations most affected.

Low-income and disabled people; elderly people living alone or living in care facilities; those in remote and rural communities; and people from minority groups carry a greater burden of oral disease, according to the WHO.

From cardiovascular disease to diabetes and mental disorders,the pattern of disparity parallels other non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

And risk factors common in noncommunicable diseases, such as high sugar intake, tobacco and alcohol, are also contributing to the global oral health crisis.

“WHO is committed to guiding and supporting countries so that all people, wherever they live and regardless of income, have the knowledge and tools necessary to care for their teeth and mouth, and to access services for prevention and care when they need it, ”Tedros assured.

Barriers to services

Only a small percentage of the world’s population is covered by essential oral health services, and those with the greatest need often have the least access.

The report outlines key barriers to oral health care, including high out-of-pocket expenses, which often lead to catastrophic costs and financial burdens on families and communities.

In addition, highly specialized providers use expensive high-tech equipment and these services are not integrated with primary health care models.

In addition, poor information and surveillance systems, combined with a low priority for oral health research, are bottlenecks in developing more effective interventions and policies.

Changing the trajectory

However, opportunities for better global oral health include adopting a public health approach by addressing common risk factors.

These include promoting a balanced, low-sugar diet, quitting tobacco use, reducing alcohol consumption, and improving access to fluoride toothpaste.

Other solutions outlined in the report support making oral health a part of national health services; redefining oral health professionals to respond to population needs; expanding oral health coverage; and collecting and integrating oral health data into national health monitoring systems.

A displaced boy, whose home was destroyed by flooding, brushes his teeth outside a temporary shelter in Lima, Peru.

Realize the vision

Putting people at the center of oral health services is critical “to achieve the vision of universal health care for all individuals and communities by 2030,” said Bente Mikkelsen, WHO director for non-communicable diseases.

Providing basic information to help countries track implementation progress, along with timely and relevant feedback to national decision-makers, she described the report as “a starting point”.

“Together we can change the current situation of oral health neglect”.

Realize the vision

Putting people at the center of oral health services is critical “to achieve the vision of universal health care for all individuals and communities by 2030,” said Bente Mikkelsen, WHO director for non-communicable diseases.

Providing basic information to help countries track implementation progress, along with timely and relevant feedback to national decision-makers, she described the report as “a starting point”.

“Together we can change the current situation of oral health neglect”.

Globally, almost half of us neglect oral care: WHO report

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