WHO/Julie Pudlowski
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                                Oral health


                                  Oral health is a key indicator of overall health, well-being and quality of life. It encompasses a range of diseases and conditions that include dental caries, periodontal (gum) disease, tooth loss, oral cancer, oral manifestations of HIV infection, oro-dental trauma, noma and birth defects such as cleft lip and palate. The Global Burden of Disease Study 2017 estimated that oral diseases affect 3.5 billion people worldwide. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, cancers of the lip and oral cavity are among the top 15 most common cancers worldwide, with nearly 180 000 deaths each year.

                                  Most oral diseases and conditions share modifiable risk factors with the leading noncommunicable diseases (cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes). These risk factors include tobacco use, alcohol consumption and unhealthy diets high in free sugars, all of which are increasing at the global level. There is a proven relationship between oral and general health. It is reported, for example, that diabetes mellitus is linked with the development and progression of periodontitis. Moreover, there is a causal link between high consumption of sugars and diabetes, obesity and dental caries.



                                  Poor oral health causes millions of people to suffer from devastating pain and increases the out-of-pocket financial burden for society. Oral diseases can affect an individual’s effectiveness in school and work settings and can cause social and personal problems. The psychosocial impact of many oral diseases significantly reduces the quality of life.

                                  While the global burden of untreated dental caries in primary and permanent teeth has remained relatively unchanged over the past 30 years, the overall burden of oral health conditions on services is likely to keep increasing because of population growth and ageing.

                                  Oral diseases disproportionally affect the poor and socially-disadvantaged members of society. There is a very strong and consistent association between socioeconomic status (income, occupation and educational level) and the prevalence and severity of oral diseases. This association remains across the life course, from early childhood to older age, and across populations in high-, middle- and low-income countries.

                                  Oral health-care treatment is costly, averaging 20% of out-of-pocket health expenditure in most high-income countries. The demand for oral health care is beyond the capacity of health-care systems in most low- and middle-income countries, and many people in some high-income countries are unable to afford proper care.



                                  Prevention and response

                                  In 2015, the Tokyo declaration on dental care and oral health for healthy longevity was adopted. The declaration called upon health policy-makers and professionals to significantly reduce the global burden of disease related to oral health, to promote greater access and equity in oral health services, and to integrate oral health programmes into the larger development agenda. Greater advocacy is needed to increase the prominence of oral health on the global health agenda, for policies that address the determinants of poor oral health and to ensure that oral health care is available to all without financial hardship.

                                  Reducing oral health issues calls for a reform of dental care systems to shift the focus from invasive dental treatment to prevention and control of oral diseases based on person-centred care. Stronger policies are also needed to address the determinants of oral diseases and noncommunicable diseases and to tackle inequalities through inclusive universal health care access.

                                  WHO's oral health work is focused on strengthening cost-effective population-wide oral health promotion and oral health care within the primary care system, particularly among populations where access to oral health care is most limited.

                                  The WHO Oral Health Programme is currently implementing a three-year roadmap (2019-2021) comprising a mix of normative work and practical support to countries through five priority activities. A top priority is the development of the WHO Global Oral Health Report, due to be launched in the second quarter of 2021. Targeting policy and decision-makers, the report will describe the burden, challenges and priority actions to renew global commitment to improve oral health within the noncommunicable disease and universal health coverage agendas. 







                                  3.58 billion

                                  were affected

                                  by an oral diseases in 2016

                                  More on oral health


                                  of people

                                  have traumatic dental injuries

                                  Find out more



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