The commitment to strengthening oral health was included in the United Nations (UN) Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) officially adopted by world leaders at the UN High-Level Meeting on UHC last Sept. 23 in New York City.
“Oral health is one of the most neglected areas of global health, so we applaud world leaders for this breakthrough commitment that gives teeth to the UN Political Declaration,” said World Dental Federation (FDI) in a statement issued in Geneva.
“It is now vital that the Declaration be converted into concrete, sustainable action at the national level,” said Dr. Gerhard Seeberger, FDI President.
It’s about time. According to the FDI, poor oral health is a “silent epidemic” affecting some 3.58 billion people – more than half of the world’s population.
Although most oral diseases are preventable, it has been estimated by the FDI that the number of people with untreated oral diseases has increased by 38 percent since 1990. And in fact, oral diseases are the fourth most expensive out-of-pocket disease to treat.
Oral diseases, such as dental caries (tooth decay), gum disease and oral cancer, are the most common forms of preventable non-communicable diseases that affect people throughout their lifetime, causing pain, discomfort, disfigurement and even death.
Key risk factors for oral disease include tobacco use, the harmful use of alcohol, and sugar consumption, according to the FDI.
Oral health is essential to general health and well-being at every stage of life, yet poor oral health continues, the FDI said in a statement following the inclusion of oral health in the Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage.
“UHC provides a unique opportunity to improve access to essential oral health services and address substantial out-of-pocket expenses associated with oral health care in many countries,” said Dr. Benoit Varenne, Dental Officer at the Non-Communicable Diseases Department of the World Health Organization.
“The integration of essential oral health services into UHC will help improve health outcomes and reduce fundamental inequalities in access to care.”
Founded in 1900, the FDI is an international, membership-based organization that serves as the main representative body for more than one million dentists worldwide.
It is active in some 200 national dental associations, including the Philippine Dental Association, and specialist groups in close to 130 countries. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, FDI’s mission is to lead the world to optimal oral health./WDJ