Oral health for all

Posted by watchmen
April 4, 2024


By Dr. Joseph D. Limhe de

Universal Health Coverage can be accelerated through sustained action on oral health care.

This sentiment was expressed by the World Dental Federation (FDI or Fédération Dentaire Internationale) during the 154th Session of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Executive Board from January 22 to 27 in Geneva, Switzerland.

WHO member states were joined by United Nations agencies as well as the FDI and the International Association for Dental, Oral and Craniofacial Research (IADR).

With more than one million members, the FDI is the largest association of oral health care professionals in the world.

The FDI and IADR called on WHO member states to accelerate Universal Health Coverage through sustained action on oral health.

During the 154th Session, WHO member states also reviewed a report on the progress towards Universal Health Coverage. The WHO Director General’s report builds on the United Nations General Assembly’s High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage held in 2023, and the subsequent adoption of a new political declaration on Universal Health Coverage: “Expanding our ambition for health and well-being in a post-COVID world.”

The report reminds governments that progress towards Universal Health Coverage is stagnated and cannot be achieved without investment in primary health care, and that includes oral health care.

The FDI and IADR delivered a joint statement which reminds governments about the opportunity to accelerate Universal Health Coverage by including oral health services in essential Universal Health Coverage benefit packages.

The WHO Director-General reported on the first set of cost-effective oral health interventions specific to oral health and the baseline report of the recently approved Global Oral Health Action Plan (2023-2030). This baseline report forms the foundation upon which progress will be reported every three years until 2030.

The Action Plan highlighted urgent gaps to address in the global response to oral diseases. It noted that 23 percent of the global population is entitled to essential oral health care services; only 31 percent of 194 countries have an operational national oral health policy backed with dedicated staff; while only 20 percent of countries have national guidance on optimal fluoride delivery.

It is also noteworthy that several WHO member states including Ireland, the European Union countries and Malaysia, reaffirmed their commitment to oral health.

In a joint statement, FDI and IADR called on governments to implement all agreed actions to address oral health and ensure adequate capacity for surveillance going forward.

The statement emphasizes that out-of-pocket costs are major barriers to accessing oral health care and calls on governments to ensure equitable access to a continuum of quality oral health services across the life course.

It reminded WHO member states that breastfeeding lowers the risk of early childhood tooth decay and WHO recommends it as a cost-effective intervention. The FDI and IADR statement applauded the increase in exclusive breastfeeding rate. It is now possible to surpass the 2025 global target of 50 percent of mothers exclusively breastfeeding, the statement observed.

The FDI and IADR urged countries to implement a comprehensive set of policies to promote healthy diets, including the taxation of sugar-sweetened beverages and other unhealthy foods and beverages; front-of-package nutrition labelling; and regulating the marketing of unhealthy foods, especially to children and adolescents.


Dr. Joseph D. Lim, Ed. D., is the former Associate Dean of the College of Dentistry, University of the East; former Dean, College of Dentistry, National University; Past President and Honorary Fellow of the Asian Oral Implant Academy; Honorary Fellow of the Japan College of Oral Implantologists; Honorary Life Member of the Thai Association of Dental Implantology; and Founding Chairman of the Philippine College of Oral Implantologists. For questions on dental health, e-mail jdlim2008@gmail.com or text 0917-8591515.


Dr. Kenneth Lester Lim, BS-MMG, DDM, MSc-OI, graduated Doctor of Dental Medicine, University of the Philippines, College of Dentistry, Manila, 2011; Bachelor of Science in Marketing Management, De la Salle University, Manila, 2002; and Master of Science (MSc.) in Oral Implantology, Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany, 2019. He is an Associate Professor; Fellow, International Congress of Oral Implantologists; Member, American Academy of Implant Dentistry and Fellow, Philippine College of Oral Implantologists. For questions on dental health, e-mail limdentalcenter@gmail.com./WDJ

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