Most oral diseases and conditions, for example, share risk factors that can be changed, modified, or eliminated. These are, for example, tobacco use and cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and an unhealthy diet high in sugar.
The risk factors are common to the four leading non-communicable diseases: cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes.
For instance, diabetes is linked with the development and progression of periodontal or gum disease and vice-versa.
There is also a link between the high consumption of sugar and diabetes, obesity, and dental caries or tooth decay.
The burden of oral diseases and other non-communicable diseases is reduced by addressing common risk factors through public health interventions.
These include promoting a well-balanced diet low in sugar and high in fruit and vegetables; promoting water as the main drink; stopping use of all forms of tobacco;
Reducing alcohol consumption and encouraging the use of protective equipment when doing sports and traveling on two wheels such as bicycles and motorcycles – reduces the risk of facial injuries and dental trauma.
Dental trauma is defined as an injury to the teeth, mouth, and oral cavity. At some point, around 20 percent of people suffer from this trauma.
Dental trauma can also be caused by misaligned teeth, unsafe playgrounds, risky behavior, violence – and accidents.
There are other important ways to prevent oral health issues. Adequate fluoride exposure is one of them.
Fluoride is essential in the prevention of dental caries or tooth decay. Fluoride can be obtained from different sources such as fluoridated drinking water, salt, milk – and toothpaste.
People should be encouraged to brush their teeth twice each day with a toothpaste containing fluoride.
Prevention is important. This is because, according to an article published in The Lancet journal in 2019, “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 the high-, middle- and low-income countries,” it added.
Prevention is important. This is because, according to the World Health Organization, “unequal distribution of oral health professionals and a lack of appropriate health facilities in most countries mean that access to primary oral health services is often low.”
Overall, according to a survey of adults expressing a need for oral health services, access ranges from 35 percent in low-income countries to 60 percent in lower-middle-income countries, 75 percent in upper-middle-income countries, and 82 percent in high-income countries.
Moreover, even in high-income settings, dental treatment is costly, averaging five percent of total health expenditure and 20 percent of out-of-pocket health expenditure.
Efforts to support Universal Health Care can help frame policy dialogue to address weak primary oral health services and address substantial out-of-pocket expenses associated with oral health care./WDJ