Almost half of world's population suffers from oral illnesses: WHO
High out-of-pocket expenses were identified in the report as one of the barriers posed when it comes to providing sufficient oral health services, such as dentist and office visits.
The World Health Organization declared on Thursday that half the world's population suffers from mouth and oral illnesses, as released in a new report publishing the first comprehensive picture of the situation across 194 countries.
Significant inequities in access to oral health services were underlined in the report which stated that the most vulnerable and disadvantaged populations were the most affected.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, "Oral health has long been neglected in global health," adding that "many oral diseases can be prevented and treated with the cost-effective measures."
According to WHO, 45% of the global population, amounting to approximately 3.5 billion people, struggles with tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral illnesses, after having increased by one billion over the last 30 years.
That was "a clear indication that many people do not have access to prevention and treatment of oral diseases."
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Around 2.5 billion people globally suffer from untreated dental caries, or tooth decay, considered the single most common condition, among other common ones, such as gum disease, tooth loss, and oral cancers.
In the report, it was disclosed that around one billion people seem to suffer from severe gum disease, a major cause of total tooth loss, with nearly 380,000 new cases of oral cancers diagnosed every year - three-quarters of those suffering live in low and middle-income countries.
Low-income earning, the disabled, elderly residing alone or in assisted living homes, those in remote areas, and many minority groups are at greater risk of attaining oral disease - also evident in patterns of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes. Excessive sugar intake, tobacco use, and alcohol abuse rank among the top risk factors.
High out-of-pocket expenses were identified in the report as one of the barriers posed when it comes to providing sufficient oral health services such as dentist and office visits.
"Catastrophic costs and significant financial burden," according to the report, can accumulate "for families and communities."
Simultaneously, oral health services dependent on specialized providers and high-tech equipment can prove inaccessible to many communities, in addition to inadequate information which indicates that many wait too long to seek treatment.
Urging countries to mandate oral health services in their primary health care systems was one of the proposals presented by WHO in a list of how to address the urgent issue.