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WHO: Status of global oral health is “alarming” – Oral health neglect affects nearly half of the world’s population

WHO: Status of global oral health is “alarming” – Oral health neglect affects nearly half of the world’s population

A new Global Oral Health Status Report published on November 18, 2022 by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that almost half of the world’s population (45% or 3.5 billion people) suffer from oral diseases, with 3 out of every 4 affected people living in low- and middle-income countries.

The WHO report also reveals that global cases of oral diseases have increased by 1 billion over the last 30 years—a clear indication that many people do not have access to prevention and treatment of oral diseases.

– 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, said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement.

Rapid increase of oral diseases

The most common oral diseases are dental caries (tooth decay), severe gum disease, tooth loss and oral cancers.  Untreated dental caries is the single most common condition globally, affecting an estimated 2.5 billion people. Severe gum disease, or periodontitis, which is a major cause of total tooth loss, is estimated to affect 1 billion people worldwide.  Meanwhile, about 380 000 new cases of oral cancers are diagnosed every year.

The report underscores the glaring inequalities in access to oral health services, with a huge burden of oral diseases and conditions affecting the most vulnerable and disadvantaged populations. People on low incomes, people living with disabilities, older people living alone or in care homes, those living in remote and rural communities and people from minority groups carry a higher burden of oral diseases.

This pattern of inequalities is similar to other noncommunicable diseases such as cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and mental disorders. Risk factors common to noncommunicable diseases such as high sugar intake, all forms of tobacco use, and harmful use of alcohol all contribute to the global oral health crisis.

Barriers to delivering oral health services

Only a small percentage of the global population is covered by essential oral health services, and those with the greatest need often have the least access to services. The key barriers to delivering access to oral health services for all include:

Oral health care requires high out-of-pocket expenditures. This often leads to catastrophic costs and significant financial burden for families and communities.

The provision of oral health services largely relies on highly specialized providers using expensive high-tech equipment and materials, and these services are not well integrated with primary health care models.

Poor information and surveillance systems, combined with low priority for public oral health research are major bottlenecks to developing more effective oral health interventions and policies.

Opportunities to improve global oral health

The report showcases many promising opportunities to improve the state of global oral health including:

  • adopting a public health approach by addressing common risk factors through promoting a well-balanced diet low in sugars, stopping use of all forms of tobacco, reducing alcohol consumption and improving access to effective and affordable fluoride toothpaste.
  • planning oral health services as part of national health and improving integration of oral health services in primary health care as part of universal health coverage.
  • redefining oral health workforce models to respond to population needs and expanding competencies of non-dental healthcare workers to expand oral health service coverage; and
  • strengthening information systems by collecting and integrating oral health data into national health monitoring systems.

– Placing people at the heart of oral health services is critical if we are to achieve the vision of universal health coverage for all individuals and communities by 2030, said Dr Bente Mikkelsen, WHO Director for Noncommunicable Diseases, according to a statement.

– This report acts as a starting point by providing baseline information to help countries monitor progress of implementation, while also providing timely and relevant feedback to decision-makers at the national level, she added.

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The WHO Global oral health status report reviews the most recent data on major oral diseases, risk factors, health system challenges and opportunities for reform. Read the report in full here.

As a separate online resource, WHO also provides the first-ever country oral health profiles for all 194 WHO Member States. For more information on oral health country profiles and related materials click here

A major gingivitis research in Europe reveals a grim fact: brushing your teeth is not enough – Finnish innovation treats and prevents periodontitis efficiently

A major gingivitis research in Europe reveals a grim fact: brushing your teeth is not enough – Finnish innovation treats and prevents periodontitis efficiently

The breakthrough study shows that eliminating the bacteria contained in dental plaque should be as vital a part of dental hygiene as brushing your teeth and flossing.

HELSINKI, Finland (October 13, 2022) Europe’s largest periodontitis study is currently being carried out at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. The first results of the three-year study indicate clearly that using the Lumoral device created by Finnish health tech company Koite Health reduces gingivitis and improves dental hygiene significantly. Lumoral utilizes an efficient antibacterial method developed by Finnish researchers that eliminates disease-causing bacteria from dental plaque.

Periodontitis, a chronic infection caused by bacteria, is a disease that affects as many as 70% of people in Western countries. Periodontitis is the sixth most common disease in the world that can also lead to other conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Infections in the mouth are mainly caused by accumulated dental plaque, that can lead to tartar buildup if not removed properly. 

Brushing and flossing isn’t enough – more than half of the participants achieved healthy gums after only three months of antibacterial treatment

The report covering the three-month results has been sent for publishing in a special edition of Dentistry Journal. The report is currently available at Preprints. The study shows that 54 percent (N=59) of participants that used Lumoral were healed from inflammation of the gums based on the BOP(bleeding on probing) index – 2.5 times more than in the control group that didn’t use the device. In the control group, only 22 percent of participants had healthy gums after three months. The participants that used Lumoral had a significantly lower amount of plaque build-up, whereas the control group still had the same amount of plaque left.

You can only remove half of the plaque by brushing your teeth – it’s no wonder cavities and gingivitis are among the most common diseases in the world. If we want to improve the results of dental care treatments, we need to focus on removing the plaque that is left on the teeth after brushing them”, says Professor Timo Sorsa from the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Diseases at the University of Helsinki.

Our hypothesis was correct: because 95 percent of dental diseases are caused by bacteria in the plaque, regularly eliminating dental plaque improves dental hygiene as well as prevents and treats dental and gum disease. The results are exceptional and prove that using Lumoral when treating gum disease makes the treatment a lot more efficient than before”, explains one of the developers of Lumoral, heart surgeon Tommi Pätilä.

Deep gum pockets can store bacteria: Lumoral removes bacteria from where your toothbrush can’t reach

In periodontitis, the advanced gum inflammation caused by plaque and tartar damages the periodontal fibers. This leads to deepening of the gum pockets. As the disease advances, the infection causes a loss of tissue, and ultimately may lead to losing one or more teeth. Periodontitis is prevalent, as up to half of over 50-year-olds suffer from the disease. Taking good care of dental hygiene is important, but in cases of chronic gum disease, the gum pockets need to be regularly cleaned by a professional. However, cleaning gum pockets with traditional methods can be difficult, which leads to more bacteria filling the pockets, thus causing further infections.

Periodontitis is often asymptomatic for a long time. Unfortunately, pain is often the first motivator to get treated”,Sorsa continues. 

The research shows that two out of three (67%) participants that used the Lumoral device were able to reduce the number of deep gum pockets by half compared to the initial situation. Four participants were able to completely eradicate deep gum pockets. The results are significantly better than the participants in the control group.

We want to permanently improve at-home dental hygiene. Before, advanced gingivitis has only been treated at the dentist, where the waiting lists are long and the treatment might be expensive. Using the Lumoral device combined with proper treatment from professionals reduces the number of infections in the mouth. Without proper at-home care, treatment done by oral health professionals is not as effective as desired, either, so using Lumoral is also beneficial for them. We expect the further results to be even better after the participants have been using Lumoral regularly for six months”, Pätilä concludes.

About the study and Lumoral

In the study carried out at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, periodontitis is treated with the currently best-known methods that include teaching the participants a proper toothbrushing technique and providing them with new, modern electric toothbrushes. The teeth and gum pockets of all participants are cleaned properly before the study commences. After that, the participants are divided into two groups. One of the groups will use the antibacterial Lumoral method at home and the other group is a control group and won’t use the Lumoral device. The participants’ oral health is checked after three months and again after six months in total.

Both groups consist of 100 participants that already suffer from periodontitis. The research is carried out in groups of 50. In the research, every tooth is measured from six different measuring points. For example, if a participant has 25 teeth, they will have 150 measuring points in total. Bleeding gums are a sign of the periodontitis advancing and causing damage in the mouth.

The Lumoral device combines antibacterial photodynamic treatment (aPDT) with antibacterial blue light (aBL). The Lumoral method is based on the antibacterial “red” PDT-light that promotes oral health and how it activates the light-sensitive Lumorinse mouth rinse, thus creating a reaction that eliminates harmful bacteria from the mouth. There is no similar product on the market, and similar treatment has only been provided at dental clinics.

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For more information:
Tommi Pätilä
Chair of Board & co-founder
Koite Health
+358 44 013 0770

tommi@koitehealth.com 

Media kit with pictures

Koite Health

Koite Health is a Finnish health tech company whose innovation, Lumoral, based on dual-light therapy has revolutionized Finnish preventive dental care. The company's expert team consists of experienced doctors and technology experts. Founders Sakari Nikinmaa and Tommi Pätilä founded Koite Health in September 2018 with the help of the Biodesign project and the commercialization project funded by Business Finland and Aalto University.

Lumoral, developed by the company, is a teeth cleaning device that is used in addition to regular tooth brushing. The device is suitable for everyone, but is especially beneficial for those with cavities or gingivitis. Lumoral has been scientifically developed, and its antibacterial effect is well established. Lumoral is a class II medical and CE approved device, and more than 5,000 units have been sold so far.