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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 aimed at achieving an improvement in 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 in the world.
In view of these alarming figures, the WHO points out that oral health is essential for good health and the overall well-being of the individual and, therefore, a prevention-focused approach is needed, supported by political and social institutions, as well as by schools, communities, and workplaces. 
About the burden of oral diseases, WHO stresses that it is the result of 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, as well as 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 interruptions and 17% reporting severe or complete interruptions of such services.  
In terms of costs, WHO recalls that the European Union spent $90 billion on the treatment of oral diseases, the third-highest expenditure among non-communicable diseases after diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. 

WHO Global Oral Health Program Priorities

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

  •     Implement regulatory work and practical support to nations, with a focus 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 in health for literacy, sending oral 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 oral health indicators for population-based health surveys, facilitating their inclusion in routine national health systems.

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