Prevention is key to oral health
Tooth decay is one of the most prevalent health problems worldwide with some 90 per cent of people having had dental problems or toothache caused by this condition.health and fitness Updated: Jan 02, 2009 16:48 IST
At this time of the year, many people consume much more food and sugary drinks than usual, neglecting dental health.
Because oral health is rarely life threatening, it can be a low priority for national governments. Yet tooth decay is one of the most prevalent health problems worldwide, with some 90 per cent of people having had dental problems or toothache caused by this condition.
In low-to-middle income countries, much tooth decay goes untreated. Severe periodontitis affects 5-15 percent of most populations, and oral cancer is the eighth most common cancer worldwide and the most common in men in southeast Asia.
While countries like Britain and Germany have a dentist for every 1,000 people, low-income and middle-income countries can have as few as one for every 50,000 and in sub-Saharan Africa this ratio is close to one for every million.
Rural areas are often those most in need of dentists. Although these poorer countries need more dental health practitioners, this is not practical in poor settings. Thus prevention is the key strategy, says an article in the latest issue of The Lancet.
Daily use of fluoride is the most cost-effective, evidence-based approach to reduce dental decay. Fluoridating water is a possible population-wide approach but implementation depends on a country's infrastructure and political will.
Use of fluoridated toothpastes is also effective, but cost can prohibit this. In some countries, taxes can represent 50 percent of the price of toothpaste - so governments could cut these taxes and also work with manufacturers to produce lower cost toothpaste.