Shock statistics on World Oral Health Day
Thousands of people in the developing world are still dying unnecessarily from untreated tooth decay, claims British dental health NGO Bridge2Aid (B2A) on the eve of World Oral Health Day.
‘It is 2013 and people are still dying from untreated dental decay,’ said Mark Topley, CEO of B2A. ‘Here in the UK we complain about a toothache but usually we can get treated within a few days at max.
‘The shocking reality is that three-quarters of the world’s population have no access to even the most basic of dental services. Dental caries as the dental profession calls them – or tooth decay – is the world’s most common disease. It causes debilitating pain and drastically affects a person’s ability to function.’
Pain – even death
Major surgery can be needed to remove diseased tissue caused by untreated dental infection.
When a dental infection fails to ‘drain’ properly, the infection can track into the neck and then spread into the chest. This leads to tissue necrosis (tissue death) and septicemia (severe infection in the blood), often fatal. The only treatment is to cut away the necrotic tissue and give high doses of antibiotics. Sadly, this very rarely works.
Lack of dentists
Most developing countries don’t have enough dentists: in Tanzania, where B2A is based, there is one dentist for approximately every 100,000 people (in the UK the ratio is 1:2,500).
In Rwanda, where B2A is about to launch a new project, there are just 11 dentists for the entire country. To make matters worse, these dentists usually live in cities and large towns, far away from remote rural communities where the help is needed most.
This lack of access to pain relief leads to chronic suffering, the loss of ability to work or support the family, withdrawal of children from school (to help support subsistence farming), and complications that can and do lead to death.
‘Although access to a dentist in every town, every village remains a utopia,’ said Mark Topley, ‘we must all of us in the dental profession focus on relieving dental pain through training, so that local medics can carry out safe tooth extractions.
‘Otherwise, literally, a toothache can kill.’