Oral health access inequality bites half of the world’s population – report

December 9, 2022

Oral health access inequality bites half of the world's population According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recently published Global Oral Health Status Report, 45% of the world’s population, or 3.5 billion people, suffer from oral diseases, with three out of every four affected people living in low- and middle-income countries. Over the last 30 years, the global number of cases of oral diseases has increased by one billion, it said.

The report, which includes data profiles for 194 countries, highlighted oral health as a long-overlooked global health issue. The report’s cost-effective measures, according to WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, can prevent and treat oral diseases.

Dental caries (tooth decay), severe gum disease, tooth loss, and oral cancers are the most common oral diseases. Untreated dental caries is the most common disease in the world, affecting an estimated 2.5 billion people. Severe gum disease, a leading cause of total tooth loss, is thought to affect one billion people worldwide. Every year, approximately 380 000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed.

The report highlights inequities in access to oral health services, with a large burden of oral diseases and conditions affecting the most vulnerable and disadvantaged populations, such as low-income people and people with disabilities, seniors, minority groups, and those living in remote and rural communities. Only a small proportion of the global population is served by essential oral health services, and those in greatest need frequently have the least access to them.

According to WHO, there are strategies that can be adapted to improve the state of global oral health, such as promoting a well-balanced diet low in sugars, quitting smoking in all forms, reducing alcohol consumption, improving access to effective and affordable fluoride toothpaste, and improving integration of oral health services in primary health care as part of universal health coverage, among others.

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