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WHO calls for oral health improvement

 More than 3.5 billion people worldwide suffer from oral diseases.

WHO calls for oral health improvement

Recently, the World Health Organization has elaborated a document to improve overall oral health worldwide, establishing 5 priorities and ensuring universal coverage of basic oral health needs for the entire population. 

It is currently estimated that more than 3.5 billion people suffer from oral diseases, the most common being caries (with 2.3 billion people affected) and severe periodontal disease, which is the leading cause of tooth loss (affecting 267 million people, especially the elderly). In addition, oral cancers are among the 15 most common cancers worldwide.
Given these alarming figures, the WHO points out that oral health is essential for good health and well-being. Therefore, a prevention-focused approach is needed, supported by political and social institutions, schools, communities, and workplaces. 
The burden of oral diseases stresses that it results from significant inequalities, disproportionately affecting marginalized and economically disadvantaged populations. These diseases are generally caused by several modifiable risk factors, including tobacco and alcohol intake, poor hygiene, and social components.  

The situation is of particular concern at this time, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, as oral health inequalities have become even more acute. According to WHO, dental services have experienced the highest number of interruptions among essential health services, with 60% of countries reporting partial disruption and 17% reporting severe or complete interruptions.  
Regarding costs, the European Union spent $90 billion on treating oral diseases, the third-highest expenditure among non-communicable conditions after diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. 

WHO Global Oral Health Program Priorities

Based on this reality, which has set several priorities in this area:

  •     Implement regulatory work and practical support to nations, focusing on the poorest and most marginalized populations.
  •     Disseminate a global report on oral health as a public health good. This report outlines the challenges and priority actions to improve oral health.
  •     Ensure the integration of oral health into other cross-cutting initiatives of different WHO programs, as well as the development of technical guidelines on issues to combat childhood dental caries, tobacco control, and the provision of essential services in the context of COVID-19.
  •     Develop moral health programs to improve oral health worldwide. Digital technologies can be used for literacy, sending verbal health behavior change messages, telemedicine, and early detection and surveillance.
  •     Strengthen oral health information systems and surveillance activities within integrated public health programs by developing standardized verbal health indicators for population-based health surveys, facilitating their inclusion in routine national health systems.