The Time is Now
The opening sentence of the recently released Global Oral Health Status Report (GOHSR) from the World Health Organization (WHO) states: “Oral health is integral to general health and supports individuals participating in society to achieve their potential.”1 This report marks a milestone—it is the first of its kind by the WHO and it provides a worldwide, comprehensive picture of oral disease status, challenges, inequalities, commonalities, and possible solutions.
The report’s intent is to highlight the importance of oral health in the context of overall health, and to spur legislative action. It also provides oral health profiles of all 194 WHO member states to help with prioritization of appropriate actions.
The report states three overall goals:1
- Outline the global public health importance and impact of oral diseases over the lifespan
- Contribute to the process of implementing the World Health Assembly 74.5 resolution on oral health at global, regional, and country levels by providing baseline information2
- Encourage commitment and action from governments, United Nations organizations, and nonstate actors such as nongovernmental organizations, academic institutions, philanthropic foundations, private-sector entities, and other stakeholders to address oral diseases in the context of global health agendas.
Key trends and data about global oral health are presented under four main headings:
- Oral diseases are global public health problems: focuses on the preventive aspects of oral diseases along with risk factors, social determinants, and conditions ranked by country income level.
- The burden of the main oral diseases: highlights data and trends for the main concerns related to oral health, including caries, periodontal diseases, oral cancer, and edentulism.
- Challenges and opportunities toward oral health for all: discusses public health and workforce issues.
- A road map toward universal health coverage for oral health: explains the importance of having international oral health improvement goals.
Statistics that may be surprising to many, but perhaps not to oral healthcare professionals, underline the importance of improving oral health around the world. For example, almost half the world’s population is affected by untreated oral disease. A higher burden of disease is found among disadvantaged and marginalized populations. And pertinent to dental hygienists across the globe is this one key sentence: “Despite these challenges, oral diseases are largely preventable with population-based public health measures.”1
I was thrilled to attend the online launch of the GOHSR. It was interesting to hear from individuals not only in oral healthcare, but other stakeholders who have come to understand the importance of good oral health.
Since the inception of our profession, dental hygienists have focused on preventing oral diseases, yet the relevance of that key role has not been a focus for improving overall health. The GOHSR signals a sea change in that regard. The time has come for prevention of oral disease to take center stage, and for dental hygienists to take the leading role in any preventive effort.
Jill Rethman, RDH, BA
Editor in Chief
- World Health Organization. Global Oral Health Status Report, Toward Universal Health Coverage for Oral Health by 2030. Available at: who.int/team/noncommunicable-diseases/global-status-report-on-oral-health-2022. Accessed December 10, 2022.
- World Health Organization. World Health Assembly 74.5. Available at: https://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/WHA74/A74_R5-en.pdf. Accessed December 10, 2022
From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. January 2023; 21(1)6.