A cavity-free future

Posted by watchmen
July 11, 2024


 By Dr. Joseph D. Lim

Tooth decay poses a significant challenge to health care worldwide.

Tooth decay and oral diseases affect 3.9 billion people, with untreated tooth decay impacting almost half of the world’s population.

In the Philippines, oral disease continues to be a “serious public health problem,” according to the Department of Health.

The prevalence of dental caries or tooth decay on permanent teeth has generally remained above 90 percent throughout the years. About 92.4 percent of Filipinos have tooth decay and 78 percent have gum diseases.

While the problem is considerably less in a developed country like Australia, much remains to be desired in rich nations too.

Australia’s Adult Oral Health Tracker shows that untreated tooth decay affects just over 32 percent of adults, a 6.6 percent increase since June 2004.

Children’s oral health is doing poorly down under. The latest figures from the 2018 Children and Young People Oral Health Tracker shows that 34.3 percent of children aged five to six years old have experienced decay in their primary teeth.

Among children aged six to 14 years, 23.5 percent have experienced tooth decay in their permanent teeth. Of this age group, 10.9 percent had untreated tooth decay; it’s 27.1 percent among children aged five to 10 years of age.

Tooth decay, which disproportionately affects people from disadvantaged backgrounds, is a largely preventable condition which can be successfully managed with “appropriate measures,” says the Alliance for a Cavity-Free Future (ACFF), the London-based organization behind World Cavity-Free Future Day, which is celebrated on October 14 each year.

The ACFF recently released the “A Global Consensus for Achieving a Dental Cavity-Free Future” report. The report was crafted by dental and public health experts who compose the Making Cavities History Task Force.

The task force, formed last year, was charged with developing policy recommendations included in the ACFF report.

The recommendations include both public and professional education, diet and nutrition, a shift to preventive dental medicine, and comprehensive data collection to monitor oral health.

The report has the backing of international organizations, including the World Federation of Public Health Associations. It was released in support of the WHO 2021 Resolution on Oral Health.

“Dental caries [tooth decay] is the most prevalent non-communicable disease (NCD) globally and affects all age groups across the life course,” says Professor Nigel Pitts, Chair of the ACFF Task Force for Making Cavities History.

“Despite the accepted scientific evidence that caries (and the dental cavities it produces) create very significant personal, societal and economic burdens across the world and that caries presents the largest numerical impact across oral health, the disease has typically been invisible in health policies,” says Dr. Pitts who also chairs the ACFF.

“This situation appears to be paradoxical, as the burdens and pain caused by caries and cavities are preventable and addressing the risk factors for cavities can also reduce other NCDs and improve general health,” continues Dr. Pitts who is also a Professor of Dental Health at King’s College London’s Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences and currently the Faculty’s Academic Lead for Impact.

The good news is that a “cavity-free future is both possible and desirable,” he says.

“Building on the developing global consensus among the dental, scientific and public health communities, we now appear to be at a unique point in time when many interests and opportunities align.”

After more than a decade of advocacy by many groups, Dr. Pitts observes, “it now seems possible to embark on global and local policies to reduce cavities and to improve not only oral health but also NCDs, as well as wider health and well-being.”


Dr. Joseph D. Lim is the former Associate Dean of the UE College of Dentistry, former Dean of the College of Dentistry, National University, past president and honorary fellow of the Asian Oral Implant Academy, and honorary fellow of the Japan College of Oral Implantologists. Honorary Life Member of Thai Association of Dental Implantology. For questions on dental health, e-mail jdlim2008@gmail.com or text 0917-8591515./WDJ

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