- Oral diseases, while largely preventable, pose a major health burden for many countries and affect people throughout their lifetime, causing pain, discomfort, disfigurement and even death.
- It is estimated that oral diseases affect nearly 3.5 billion people.
- Untreated dental caries (tooth decay) in permanent teeth is the most common health condition according to the Global Burden of Disease 2019.
- Treatment for oral health conditions is expensive and usually not part of universal health coverage (UHC).
- Most low- and middle-income countries do not have sufficient services available to prevent and treat oral health conditions.
- Oral diseases are caused by a range of modifiable risk factors common to many noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including sugar consumption, tobacco use, alcohol use and poor hygiene, and their underlying social and commercial determinants.
Most oral health conditions are largely preventable and can be treated in their early stages. Most cases are dental caries (tooth decay), periodontal diseases, tooth loss and oral cancers. Other oral conditions of public health importance are orofacial clefts, noma (severe gangrenous disease starting in the mouth mostly affecting children) and oro-dental trauma.
The WHO Global Oral Health Status Report (2022) estimated that oral diseases affect close to 3.5 billion people worldwide, with 3 out of 4 people affected living in middle-income countries. Globally, an estimated 2 billion people suffer from caries of permanent teeth and 514 million children suffer from caries of primary teeth.
Prevalence of the main oral diseases continues to increase globally with growing urbanization and changes in living conditions. This is primarily due to inadequate exposure to fluoride (in the water supply and oral hygiene products such as toothpaste), availability and affordability of food with high sugar content and poor access to oral health care services in the community. Marketing of food and beverages high in sugar, as well as tobacco and alcohol, have led to a growing consumption of products that contribute to oral health conditions and other NCDs.
Oral health inequalities
Oral diseases disproportionally affect the poor and socially disadvantaged members of society. There is a very strong and consistent association between socioeconomic status (income, occupation and educational level) and the prevalence and severity of oral diseases. This association exists from early childhood to older age and across populations in high-, middle- and low-income countries.