3.9 billion ‘untreated dental problems’ worldwide

More than half of the world’s population are burdened by untreated oral health problems.

New research has discovered that 3.9 billion people worldwide are affected by oral health conditions, with tooth decay and cavities accounting for more than one in three (35%) cases.

As well as untreated decay, the research identified severe gum disease as another problem on the rise. The research also suggests that while severe tooth loss is a decreasing problem worldwide, it is still the biggest problem in Western Europe.

Oral health problems already pose a significant burden on the economy. According to the Platform for Better Oral Health in Europe, in the UK, an estimated £9.65 billion was spent on oral health care in 2012 – a figure which is predicted to increase by almost a fifth (17.2%) to £11.31 billion by 2020.

While lead researcher Professor Wagner Marcenes noted in the research that current dental services are coping better to prevent tooth loss than in the past, more effort is needed to prevent gum disease and tooth decay, the two growing problems.

Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, voiced his concerns at the findings of the research.

Dr Carter said: ‘Although we have been aware for some time that gum disease is incredibly common, it is worrying to know just how widespread the problem is.

‘Oral diseases remain a significant drain on public health finances in the UK. This is especially worrying given that much of the burden is due to dental caries and severe gum disease, two problems that are entirely preventable.

‘National Smile Month, which runs until 20 June, is an opportunity for people to make caring for their teeth a top priority. Good dental habits should be for life and are never too late to develop.

‘Regular visits to the dentist, as often as they recommend, is really important to give the dentist a chance to assess your oral health and, if necessary, give your teeth a scale and polish. This cannot be done in isolation. A simple routine of brushing teeth, twice a day for two minutes using a fluoride toothpaste, will help to remove plaque – the cause of gum disease. It is also important to clean in between teeth using interdental brushes or floss,’ advised Dr Carter.

The research, published in the Journal of Dental Research, presents an analysis on the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2010 Study.

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