WHO: Oral health is a key indicator of overall health, well-being, and quality of life
Why is oral health so important for everyone? The mouth is the “starting point” of the body’s defense and immunity system. When oral health is compromised by disease or injury, general health is also affected, describes Dr. Benoit Varenne, Oral Health Programme Officer at the NCD Prevention Department of the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to WHO’s Global Oral Health Status Report published on 18 November 2022, almost half of the world’s population is affected by some type of oral disease. The most vulnerable and marginalized populations are particularly affected by poor oral health.
Dr. Benoit Varenne explains in an interview for WHO: Science in 5 that poor oral health can lead to a multitude of health challenges – in more severe cases even to disability and death. Oral diseases are linked to a range of risk factors – these include tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and unhealthy food and drinks.
– These risk factors are shared with other medical conditions or noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, or mental disorders, Dr. Benoit Varenne says.
The link between oral health and general health proven
Research indicates that there is a proven relationship between oral and general health. It is reported, for example, that diabetes is linked with the development and progression of periodontitis. Meanwhile, there is also a causal link between high consumption of sugars and diabetes, obesity, and dental caries, WHO recognizes.
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. Infections in the mouth are mainly caused by accumulated dental plaque, which can lead to tartar buildup if not removed properly.
According to Dr. Varenne, the biggest challenges in terms of improving global oral health are the cost and access to oral health care. In many countries, oral health care services are not accessible or not affordable for most people. Thus, implementing prevention measures such as in schools, communities, and workplaces is important.
Prevention is the best tool
So, how can we maintain and improve oral health? The key to good oral health is thorough oral home care. Prevention of oral diseases requires regular brushing and flossing. Using fluoride toothpaste is also important as it helps fight against dental caries.
Secondly, to help prevent dental caries and maintain general health, it is recommended to reduce sugar consumption in food and drink. Dr. Varenne reminds that water is the best drink every day at any time.
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