Oral health given short shrift, says study

Regular dental examinations can prevent gum disease.  

“Oral diseases present a major global public health burden, affecting 3.5 billion people worldwide, yet oral health has been largely ignored by the global health community,” noted a new Lancet Series on Oral Health .

The report warns that with a treat-over-prevent model, modern dentistry has failed to combat the global challenge of oral diseases.

Oral diseases, including tooth decay, gum disease and oral cancers, affect almost half of the global population, with untreated dental decay the most common health condition worldwide. In India, oral disorders are the most prevalent disease condition, and have remained so for the past 30 years.

Prevalence of oral cancer is highest in South Asian countries.

Economic impact

In addition to lower quality of life, oral diseases have a major economic impact on both individuals and the wider health care system.

The Lancet Series on Oral Health , led by University College London (UCL) researchers, brought together 13 academic and clinical experts from 10 countries to better understand why oral diseases have persisted globally over the last three decades, despite scientific advancements in the field.

The paper also notes that in high-income countries, dentistry is increasingly technology-focused and trapped in a treatment-over-prevention cycle, failing to tackle the underlying causes of oral diseases.

In middle-income countries the burden of oral diseases is considerable, but oral care systems are often underdeveloped and unaffordable to the majority. In low-income countries the current situation is most bleak, with even basic dental care unavailable and most disease remaining untreated.

Manu Raj Mathur, head, health policy, and additional professor, Public Health Foundation of India, said: “Recently, the government of India announced the Ayushman Bharat Yojana, which aims at strengthening the primary health care and providing financial protection to the most vulnerable sections of the society. It is aimed at creating awareness, screening and symptomatic care for oral diseases, counselling for tobacco cessation and referral to tobacco cessation centres.”