Almost 100% of adults and 60-90% of schoolchildren worldwide suffer from dental caries

  • Oral cancer is the world’s 8th most common cancer and the 3rd most common cancer in Southeast Asia  
  • 30% of adults aged 65-74 years have lost all their natural teeth  
  • The mouth can reflect the state of general health. The first symptoms of HIV/AIDS, leukaemia, and diabetes amongst other diseases often manifest in the mouth  
  • FDI provides 5 recommendations which are essential to improve oral health

Oral diseases are amongst the most common, yet they receive little attention in many countries, especially those with poor healthcare systems. FDI World Dental Federation presents the latest findings on oral health on a very special date in the calendar for all dental professionals, World Oral Health Day. This report highlights the main obstacles to achieving universal oral health, a human right, an integral part of general health and essential for the overall wellbeing of everyone. It was presented today at the British Dental Association (BDA) in London by Dr Jean-Luc Eiselé, Executive Director of FDI and by David Williams, Professor of Global Oral Health, Bart’s and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry. 

Absenteeism at schools and work due to dental diseases
Nearly 100% of adults and between 60-90% of children have dental caries, which results in missed days in school and work. In the US, oral diseases resulted in the loss of 2.4 million days of work and 1.6 million days of school. In Thailand, dental problems caused 1,900 hours of school lost per 1,000 children. In the Philippines, toothache is the most important reason for school absenteeism, as about 97% of 6-year-old children have dental caries. Thus, oral diseases are major causes of economic and social loss for individuals and countries. The good news is that the majority of common chronic diseases are largely preventable through simple and cost-effective measures.  

Oral cancer is amongst the 10 most common cancers in the world  
Low-income countries carry the biggest burden, as oral cancer is twice as prevalent in these countries compared to developed countries. Recent studies have shown that oral cancer is the world’s 8th most common cancer and the 3rd most common cancer in Southeast Asia, with men showing higher incidence and mortality rates than women. The risk of oral cancer is 15 times higher when tobacco use and alcohol consumption are combined and these two risk factors are estimated to account for about 90% of oral cancers.  

Periodontal diseases are the leading cause for tooth loss
Living without teeth severely affects quality of life and can lead to unhealthy diets, malnutrition and social isolation. Worldwide, 30% of people aged 65-74 years have lost all their natural teeth. Data shows that severe gum diseases affect about 5-20% of the worldwide population. Regular tooth brushing, at least twice a day, and using fluoride toothpaste are highly effective methods to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Other simple measures such as eating a healthy diet low in sugar, avoiding sugary snacks between meals and having regular dental check-ups also help in this regard.  

Noma is rife in developing countries, with many cases left untreated
According to recent data, 90% of children with Noma do not receive care and have low chances of survival. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates about 140,000 people to be affected by Noma, concentrated in the geographic regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and South America. The disease is a result of extreme poverty, poor hygiene, malnutrition as well as compromised immunity. Children are most likely to suffer from this disease and if left untreated it is fatal in 80% of cases. Simple, but early treatment can save lives!  

The majority of oral diseases are related to socio-economic factors
As with general health, decreasing socio-economic status affecting income, education, housing, sanitation, gender, ethnic origin and other key determinants have a strong impact on oral health. Only 60% of the world’s population access to oral care. The disparities are visible as people along a decreasing social gradient visit the dentist less often, have fewer fillings, more missing teeth, higher tobacco consumption, higher rates of caries and untreated decay, and higher rates of gum disease than those with higher socio-economic status.  

Oral health and general health are closely linked
Oral health can be compromised by a number of chronic and infectious diseases, whose symptoms are shown in the mouth. A clear example is people who suffer from HIV/AIDS: about 40-50% present of them show early indicators of an HIV infection through fungal, bacterial or viral infections in the mouth. Leukaemia may cause oral ulcers; bulimia often causes characteristic tooth erosions (from gastric acid) and diabetes can result in delayed healing of mouth wounds and the worsening of gum disease. Oral diseases can lead to infection, inflammation, and other serious affects on overall health. Thus, maintaining good oral health is crucial to sustaining general health and vice versa.  

5 steps from FDI World Dental Federation for optimal oral health
The white paper presented by FDI World Dental Federation in London paints a bleak picture for oral health around the globe. As shown in the different findings, oral care is vital for the physical and psychological wellbeing of an individual, yet it is often ignored or overlooked. To solve this, we must ensure that every person is able to follow five steps in order to achieve a minimum standard of oral care. 

1)  Improve exposure to fluoride: brush teeth twice daily using fluoride toothpaste and use other sources of fluoride (ie. from fluoridated salt or water). Children should brush their teeth with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, twice daily. Always compliment your brushing with a rinse and a floss

2)  Enjoy healthy food and drink, especially reducing sugar consumption, and reducing or stopping tobacco and alcohol use. Consider using sugar-free medicines where possible

3)  Chew sugar-free gum after meals and snacks as a supplement to a normal oral health care routine

4)  Protect teeth by wearing a mouth guard when playing contact sports and a helmet during exposed transportation and for contact and accident-prone sports

5)  Ensure regular dental check-ups. Be vigilant if you have pain, sores, patches or unusual bleeding in your mouth that lasts for two weeks or more – get advice from a dentist 

Following these steps will bring us closer to achieving better oral health and in return, general health for all.  

To access the white paper please visit:

About FDI
FDI World Dental Federation serves as the principal representative body for more than one million dentists worldwide, developing health policy and continuing education programmes, speaking as a unified voice for dentistry in international advocacy, and supporting member associations in glob
al oral health promotion activities. Over the years, it has developed programmes, initiatives, campaigns, policies and congresses, always with a view to occupying a space that no other not-for-profit group can claim.   FDI works at national and international level through its own activities and those of its member dental associations. It is in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO) and a member of the World Health Professionals Alliance (WHPA).