AN estimated 3.5 billion people suffer from oral diseases worldwide, with three out of four affected living in low and middle-income countries, says the World Health Organization (WHO).
It has published a Global Oral Health Status Report analysing key areas and markers throughout 194 countries. The report shows that cases have increased by one billion over the last 30 years and attributes the rise mainly to restricted access to prevention and treatment.
Tooth decay is identified as the single most common condition around the world, affecting an estimated 2.5 billion people, but gum disease, tooth loss and oral cancers are also among the most prevalent.
Severe gum disease (a major cause of total tooth loss) is estimated to affect one billion people worldwide, and about 380,000 new cases of oral cancers are diagnosed every year.
The report highlights unequal access to oral health services, with vulnerable and disadvantaged populations most affected, including people on low incomes and with disabilities, older individuals living alone or in care facilities, those in remote and rural communities and people from minority groups.
Common risk factors worldwide include high sugar intake, tobacco, and alcohol.
Another major cause identified is lack of access. Only a small percentage of the global population is covered by essential oral health services, with key barriers including high out-of-pocket expenditures leading to “catastrophic costs and financial burden" for families and communities.
WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commented: "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."
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