Tue. Mar 31st, 2020

Oral diseases affect nearly 3.5 billion people globally, says WHO

sample of teeth affected by dental caries (tooth decay) PHOTO/Net

By George Kalisa

Some 3.5 billion are affected by oral diseases worldwide 2.3 billion people of them suffer from caries of permanent teeth and more than 530 million children suffer from caries of primary teeth, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said today as the world marks the International Day for Oral Diseases.

Oral diseases pose a major health burden for many countries and affect people throughout their lifetime, causing pain, discomfort, disfigurement and even death, and these diseases share common risk factors with other major noncommunicable diseases, WHO says in a statement it released today.

The majority of oral health conditions including dental caries (tooth decay), periodontal diseases, oral cancers, oral manifestations of HIV, oro-dental trauma, cleft lip and palate, and noma (severe gangrenous disease starting in the mouth mostly affecting children).

However, the world’s health body adds that most oral health conditions are largely preventable and can be treated in their early stages.

Untreated dental caries (tooth decay) in permanent teeth is the most common health condition according to the Global Burden of Disease 2017.

More than 530 million children suffer from dental caries of primary teeth (milk teeth).

Severe periodontal (gum) disease, which may result in tooth loss, is also very common, with almost 10% of the global population affected.

Oral cancer (cancer of the lip or mouth) is one of the three most common cancers in some countries of Asia and the Pacific.

Treatment for oral health conditions is expensive and usually not part of universal health coverage (UHC). In most high-income countries, dental treatment averages 5% of total health expenditure and 20% of out-of-pocket health expenditure.

Most low- and middle-income countries are unable to provide services to prevent and treat oral health conditions.

Factors contributing to oral diseases are an unhealthy diet high in sugar, use of tobacco and harmful use of alcohol.

In most low- and middle-income countries, with increasing urbanization and changes in living conditions, the prevalence of oral diseases continues to increase. This is primarily due to inadequate exposure to fluoride (in the water supply and oral hygiene products such as toothpaste) and poor access to oral health care services in the community.

Marketing of food and beverages high in sugar, as well as tobacco and alcohol, has led to a growing consumption of products that contribute to oral health conditions and other noncommunicable diseases.

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