Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 10.02.45 AMFDI World Dental Federation recently presented the latest findings on oral health in conjunction with World Oral Health Day. The report, presented at the British Dental Association in London, highlighted a number of obstacles to achieving universal oral health.

Dr Jean-Luc Eiselé, Executive Director of FDI, and David Williams, Professor of Global Oral Health, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, revealed many findings of the report, including additional research on the economic ramifications of oral diseases for individuals and countries.

According to Eiselé and Williams, nearly 100% of adults and between 60% to 90% of children have tooth decay or cavities, which resulted in missed days in school and work. In the United States, oral diseases resulted in the loss of 2.4 million days of work and 1.6 million days of school. In Thailand, dental problems caused 1,900 hours of school lost per 1,000 children. In the Philippines, toothache is the number-one reason for school absenteeism, as about 97% of 6-year-old children have tooth decay or cavities.

What’s more, researchers have found that gum diseases are the leading cause for tooth loss. As explained by Eiselé and Williams, living without teeth severely affects quality of life and can lead to unhealthy diets, malnutrition, and social isolation. Worldwide, 30% of people aged 65 to 74 years have lost all their natural teeth. Data shows that severe gum diseases affect about 5% to 20% of the worldwide population.

The report also explains that oral cancer is among the 10 most common cancers in the world, with low-income countries carrying the biggest burden. According to researchers, oral cancer is the world’s eighth-most common cancer and the third-most common cancer in Southeast Asia, with men showing higher incidence and mortality rates than women. The risk of oral cancer is 15 times higher when tobacco use and alcohol consumption are combined; these two risk factors are estimated to account for about 90% of oral cancers, the report states.

Researchers with the study also investigated the relationship between oral diseases and socioeconomic factors. What they found was decreasing socioeconomic status affecting income, education, housing, sanitation, gender, ethnic origin, and other key determinants have a strong impact on oral health.

Moreover, Eiselé and Williams report that only 60% of the world’s population has access to oral care. “The disparities are visible as people along a decreasing social gradient visit the dentist less often, have fewer fillings, more missing teeth, higher tobacco consumption, higher rates of caries and untreated decay, and higher rates of gum disease than those with higher socioeconomic status,” they write.