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FDI outlines strategies to address global oral health challenges by 2020

August 30, 2012

Hong Kong—The FDI World Dental Federation released a report Aug. 30 that outlines five strategies to address what the FDI describes as urgent oral health care challenges facing the dental profession and its patients worldwide.

The report, FDI Vision 2020: Shaping the Future of Oral Health, issued during the FDI's 100th World Dental Congress in Hong Kong, urges action to “meet increasing need and demand for oral health care, expand the role of oral health care professionals, shape a responsive educational model, mitigate the impact of socioeconomic dynamics and foster fundamental and translational research and technology.”

Dr. Michael Glick, editor of The Journal of the American Dental Association and dean, University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, served as the Vision 2020 task team chair. The team included representatives from academia, research, education, general dentistry, government and industry.

“Major inequalities in oral health care exist both within and between countries, and it is urgent that the worlds of oral health and overall medical health come together to address a crisis that is compromising our quality of life and costing us far too much money at a time when national budgets are strapped,” said Dr. Glick in an FDI press release. “These numbers highlight how far we have to go to provide basic oral care to most of the world.”

The vision report notes that oral disease is one of the most common chronic diseases worldwide, and is the fourth most expensive disease to treat. Oral disease affects most adults and 60-90 percent of schoolchildren, leading to millions of lost school days each year. And, although there are more than 1 million practicing dentists worldwide, unequal geographic distribution has resulted in critical shortages of dental professionals in many poor or remote areas. Croatia has one oral health care professional for every 560 people and the United States has one for every 2,200 people. But in China, the ratio is one to 82,000 and in Ethiopia, one for every 1.3 million.

Oral health is receiving more attention from governments and international organizations because of a growing realization that oral health affects overall health, according to the report. This momentum gives the profession an opportunity to take a leadership role to advocate for oral health with leaders and policy-makers at all levels of government and local, regional, national and global NGOS and the public.

“Oral health is an essential component of overall health, and there is a growing realization of the connection between oral disease and other chronic and potentially fatal diseases,” said Dr. Orlando Monteiro da Silva, FDI president and an oral physician based in Lisbon. “Risk factors for oral diseases are the same as for many of the most common non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases. As oral disease escalates, we can expect to see a greater incidence of all the associated diseases, at great cost to society. We must act now if we hope to deal with the crisis by 2020.”

The Vision 2020 task team includes Dr. Glick; Dr. da Silva; Dr. Gerhard Konrad Seeburger, national liaison officer, Associazione Italiana Odontoiatri; Dr. Gilberto Pucca, national coordinator, Brasil Sorridente (Smiling Brazil) program; Prof. David Williams, professor of global oral health, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry; Prof. Tao Xu, dean, Peking University School of Stomatology; and Steve Kess, vice president, global professional relations, Henry Schein, Inc.

“The Vision 2020 report represents our effort to shape the future of oral health,” said Prof. Tao Xu, the task team representative from Asia. “Our mandate was to identify the main challenges to expanding access to oral health care at a time when it is more urgent than ever. This report represents a call to action to ensure that oral health priorities receive sufficient attention and resources to combat the spread of oral disease.”