WHO: Oral diseases affect nearly half of humanity
The World Health Organization announced in a report issued Thursday that nearly half of the world’s population suffers from oral diseases, including rotten teeth, swollen gums and oral cancer.
The new report highlights stark disparities in access to oral health services, noting that this situation has severely affected the most vulnerable and disadvantaged population groups.
“Oral health has long been neglected in global health (policy),” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stressing that “many oral diseases are preventable and treatable with cost-effective measures.”
The United Nations health agency concluded that 45 percent of the world’s population, or about 3.5 billion people, suffer from tooth decay, gum disease and other oral diseases.
The report, which provides the first comprehensive picture of the situation in 194 countries, showed that global cases have increased by one billion over the past three decades.
The World Health Organization said this was a “clear indication that many people do not have access to prevention and treatment of oral diseases”.
The most common diseases in this area are dental caries, acute periodontal disease, tooth loss, and oral cancer.
Untreated tooth decay is the most common problem, affecting about 2.5 billion people worldwide.
It is also estimated that severe periodontal disease, which is a major cause of total tooth loss, affects approximately one billion people.
The World Health Organization said nearly 380,000 new cases of oral cancers are diagnosed each year.
The report found that three-quarters of people with oral diseases live in low- and middle-income countries.
In all countries, low-income people, people with disabilities, elderly people living alone or in care homes, and those living in remote and rural communities, or minority groups, bear a greater burden of oral disease, WHO added.
The World Health Organization said these patterns are the same as for other noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The risk factors are also similar and include, in particular, excessive sugar intake, tobacco smoking and alcohol intake.
The report, released Thursday, highlights the barriers to providing adequate oral health services, including dental visits, which often result in high costs.
The World Health Organization said this could lead to “catastrophic costs and a significant financial burden for families and societies”.
At the same time, reliance on specialized service providers and high-tech equipment makes these services unavailable to many.
Due to the lack of information and monitoring, many people spend a long time before seeking or receiving treatment.
The World Health Organization has put forward a long list of proposals to tackle the problem, including calling on countries to include oral health services in their primary health care systems.