Around the world warning bells and alarms should be going off. This is not because of the rise in conflicts in Ukraine and Israel but because of the alarming state of global oral health. I am not being glib here, as the numbers being impacted are far greater via the dental and gum diseases crisis than the wars being fought.

“This alarming statistic remained unchanged in 2017, with 3.47 billion cases worldwide. Indeed, periodontal disease and caries were ranked 14th and 16th in their contribution to years lost to disability in women and men, respectively, being responsible for more years lost to disability than any other human disease. Besides this human cost, there is also an enormous economic burden, with direct treatment costs for oral diseases estimated at $356.8 billion in 2015, 4.6% of global health expenditure, and indirect costs associated with loss of economic productivity adding a further $187.61 billion. These costs are within the range of those incurred by the ten leading causes of death worldwide.”
Nature.com

Causes Of The Global Oral Health Crisis

Billions of people are suffering and hundreds of billions of dollars are being lost in productivity losses every year. The global oral health crisis is ongoing and little has been done about it over the last 30 years. Obviously, the ultimate blame for the problem lies with capitalism and its completely irresponsible behaviours around processed food manufacture and distribution globally. Governments, even in the wealthy developed nations allow the sugar industry to run amok producing products that are terribly detrimental to the oral health of its citizens. This has been going for centuries and very little is ever done about it. Profitability has always come before responsibility when it comes to the food sector. Billions of dollars are spent on advertising fast foods and sugary drinks every year. How much money is spent on promoting a healthy diet and oral health in comparison? Children and ignorant adults are inundated with enticing commercials entreating them to purchase junk food 24/7. The neoliberal policies of governments over the last three decades has seen governments stand idly by whilst vast industries make stuff that contributes to the early deaths and poor health outcomes of millions of citizens. People would not have bad teeth if they weren’t eating too many processed carbohydrates and consuming way too much refined sugar. Ethical dentists shrug our shoulders as this denigrated collective lifestyle is good for business. We live in developed economies where it is much cheaper to eat fast food than buy fresh fruit and vegetables and prepare meals yourself. Poorer people struggle to afford healthy food in places like Australia. It is outrageous when you think about it.

Unaffordable Essentials & Oral Health Care

Right now in 2023/24 we are in the midst of a high inflationary cost of living crisis. The Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), Michelle Bullock, pointed the finger at dentists recently as contributors to local inflation stickiness because they have been raising their charges to customers. Dental care in Australia is not covered by our universal health insurance, Medicare, and it is pretty expensive in relation to other costs affecting Australians. Others are accusing Corporate Australia of price gouging, as many companies and sectors have declared record billion dollar profits this year. There are Senate Inquiries into the supermarket duopoly of Coles and Woolworths and possible price gouging. There are calls for dental care to be integrated into the Medicare system.

Global Inflation & Housing Crises

Many people around the world are doing it tough, as the economic crises have been in Europe, America, Africa, Asia, and in most parts of the globe. These have followed the Coronavirus pandemic, lock downs, shipping supply shocks, energy shocks, and trillion dollar Quantitative Easing (QE2) by the central banks. All of these things created the high inflation that has pushed up the prices of food, energy, and shelter. Oral health issues globally can only have gotten worse during these lean times with many people unable to afford trips to the dentist. We know that poor oral health is inextricably linked to serious debilitating bad health outcomes. Not many folk can smile in the face of not having enough to eat or a place to lay their head in safety. Indeed, looking after one’s teeth and gums is not easy for those living out of tents on the fringes of our cities. There is a massive housing shortage and rental crisis in Australia and around the world occurring.

“Worldwide, untreated cavities (also called caries) are the most common oral health issue, affecting more than 2 billion people, and severe gum disease affects about 1 billion people, according to a new report on oral health from the World Health Organization. Calling the global situation “alarming,” WHO officials say nearly half of the world’s population has untreated oral diseases, and that these illnesses affect more people worldwide than mental disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancers combined.”
Washington Post

The 2 Speed Global Economy & Poor Oral Health For Billions

It is a shame that even in the 21C, most people globally have to view dental care as a luxury rather than an essential. We live in a 2 speed economy where the wealthy enjoy topline oral health care from well trained dentists, whilst the poor suffer in their economic misery. Dental technology is offering state of the art innovation with AI and all sorts of goodies for those that can afford its big ticket price. Meanwhile, most human beings eat junk food full of sugar and processed carbs, which produce poor oral health outcomes and they cannot afford to go to the dentist.

“ “Oral health has long been neglected in global health, but many oral diseases can be prevented and treated with the cost-effective measures outlined in this report,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, said in a press release. “WHO is committed to providing guidance and support to countries so that all people, wherever they live and whatever their income, have the knowledge and tools needed to look after their teeth and mouths, and to access services for prevention and care when they need them.” “
The Dental Tribune

The current political situation in the US is an illustrative snapshot of humanity in the 21C. You have half of the wealthiest nation on earth indicating they will vote for Donald Trump, a leader who openly scorns helping others less fortunate and promises white supremacists an America for that already obese demographic. An isolationist America run by a dictator, like Mister Putin in Russia – who is a Trump ally. I cannot see global oral health flourishing in a world full of oligarchs and despots. Billionaires making obscene amounts of money indicate the growing divide between haves and have nots.

The Most Recent European WHO Data:

• The European Region had the highest prevalence of major oral disease cases (50.1% of the adult population) across all six WHO regions worldwide. This includes the highest prevalence of caries of permanent teeth across all WHO regions, which at 33.6% of the European Region’s population represents almost 335 million cases in 2019.
• The Region had the second greatest proportion of cases of tooth loss (25.2%), about 88 million people aged 20 years or over. This translates to a prevalence of 12.4%, the highest among the WHO regions and almost double the global prevalence of 6.8%.
• The Region also had the second highest estimated number, among the WHO regions, of new cases of oral cancers, at almost 70 000 – accounting for 18.5% of the total estimated number of cases globally. More than 26 500 deaths in the Region were attributable to oral cancers in 2020.
• Of the European Region’s 53 countries, 34 (66.7%) did not have a national oral health policy.
• Eleven countries (23.4%) did not have dedicated staff for oral diseases in the noncommunicable diseases department of the ministry of health.
World Health Organisation

 

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