HONG KONG--The world is experiencing a large and growing crisis in access to oral health care that, if left unchecked, risks an unmanageable explosion of oral disease, especially in developing countries.
Thi is according to a report issued today by Geneva-based FDI World Dental Federation, the principal representative body for more than one million dental practitioners worldwide.
Oral disease affects already most adults globally, and as many as 90% of the world's schoolchildren, according to FDI. FDI released the report, called Vision 2020, at its annual Congress held in 2012 in Hong Kong.
Oral disease, which includes everything from cavities and periodontics to oral cancer, is the fourth most expensive disease to treat and also one of the most preventable.
In an effort to marshal global public opinion, FDI has set a date of 2020 to respond to the crisis. In the Vision 2020 report, FDI offers for the first time a five-point blueprint that delineates the challenges facing oral health and oral health care.
"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, the president of FDI and an oral physician based in Lisbon.
"Risk factors for oral diseases are the same as for many of the most common noncommunicable 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."
FDI's five-point plan includes the following: 1) Expanding access to care; 2) Expanding the role of existing oral health care professionals; 3) Closing the gap between dental education and medical education; 4) Mitigating the impact on oral health care from variations in economic growth; and 5) Improving the implementation of oral research findings into daily practice.
The disparity in access to oral health care is stark. In Croatia, for example, there is one oral health care professional for every 560 people, and in the United States, one for every 2,200 people. But in China, there's just one oral health care professional for every 82,000 people, and in Ethiopia, one for every 1.3 million people.
The location of FDI's annual Congress in Hong Kong highlights, in particular, the increased incidence of oral disease in Asia, where rising wealth creates the conditions that often lead to increased oral disease.
"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. Michael Glick, the dean of the School of Dental Medicine at the University at Buffalo and the leader of FDI's Vision 2020 Task Force.
"These numbers highlight how far we have to go to provide basic oral care to most of the world."
The Vision 2020 report represents an evolution in the mission of FDI, which was founded 112 years ago. As the oral health care crisis mounts, FDI increasingly is shifting its role to serve as a public policy advocate for oral health care, beyond its more traditional role as an organizer of industry meetings and congresses.
Coincident with the organization's 100th Annual Congress, FDI is devoting more resources to developing health policy and speaking as a unified voice for the promotion of oral health care worldwide.
While the dental associations of individual nations have taken steps to combat oral health inequity, the Vision 2020 effort represents the first time the international dental medicine community, under the auspices of FDI, has come together to set a direction for addressing these issues.
"The Vision 2020 report represents our effort to shape the future of oral health," said Prof. Tao Xu, the dean of Peking University School of Stomatology and the representative from Asia on FDI's Vision 2020 Task Force.
"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."
The other members of the Vision 2020 Task Force include Dr. Monteiro de Silva; Dr. Gerhard Konrad Seeburger, national liaison officer, Associazione Italiana Odontoiatri; Dr. Gilberto Pucca, national coordinator, Oral Health Program - Brazil; Prof. David Williams, professor of global oral health at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry; and Steve Kess, vice president, global professional relations, Henry Schein.
For access to the full report, click on the following link: http://www.fdiworldental.org/documents/10157/e5a69514-515e-401a-b6cc-838be48955ae.
For more information, visit www.fdiwordental.org.
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