WHO Reports Oral Disease Affects Nearly Half of the World’s Population
A new “Global Oral Health Status Report” published by the World Health Organization (WHO) provides the first-ever comprehensive picture of oral disease burden, with data profiles for 194 countries that offer key markers of oral health that are relevant for policymakers and other stakeholders. This landmark study represents an important milestone in the larger process of mobilizing resources and political action to promote oral health globally.
The report shows that almost half of the world’s population (45% or 3.5 billion people) are affected by oral disease, with three out of every four of these individuals living in low- or middle-income countries. Officials also note the estimated number of cases is about 1 billion more than the top five medical noncommunicable diseases (mental disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, and cancer) combined. In addition, WHO reports the occurrence of oral disease is increasing globally at a rate that outpaces population growth—a clear indication that many do not have access to care for preventive treatment and other services.
The study reviews the most recent data on oral disease, risk factors, health system challenges, and strategies for reform. The authors conclude the status of global oral health is dire and requires urgent action. In addition, the report showcases opportunities to improve the state of worldwide oral health, including:
- Adopting a public health approach that addresses common risk factors
- Planning oral health services as part of national health policies, and improving integration of oral health services into primary healthcare as part of universal health coverage
- Redefining oral health workforce models to respond to population needs
- Strengthening information systems by collecting and integrating oral health data into national health monitoring systems
“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,” notes WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, MSc. “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 access dental services for prevention and treatment.”