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WHO adds three dental treatments to essential medicines list

Oct. 6, 2021
The WHO's updated list includes 20 new medicines for adults and 17 for children, three of which are dental treatments that prevent cavities, marking a major achievement for oral health and public health.

Contributed by the NYU College of Dentistry

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced updates to its Model List of Essential Medicines for Adults and Children. Three of the 20 new medicines recommended for addition to the adult list and 17 new medicines recommended for addition to the children’s list—fluoride, glass ionomer cement, and silver diamine fluoride—are dental treatments that prevent caries, marking a major achievement and opportunity for oral health and public health.

The recommendations were published on October 1, 2021, by the WHO Expert Committee on Selection and Use of Essential Medicines. The committee, which had convened June 21 - July 2, 2021 to discuss changes to the list, acknowledged the burdeof oral diseases, especially untreated dental caries, and the significant public health challenge they present around the world by adding these three dental treatments to the list.

The NYU Dentistry WHO Collaborating Center for Quality–improvement, Evidence-based Dentistry was involved in the applications for all three dental treatments for submission to the WHO Expert Committee, which included coordinating contributors, gathering evidence, and drafting the application dossiers.

“With untreated caries affecting more than 3 billion people around the world, we need to change the paradigm towards priority for prevention and highly cost-effective care. Adding the three dental preparations to the Essential Medicine List for adults and children is a huge step forward for oral health and the prevention and treatment of dental caries,” said Habib Benzian, DDS, MScDPH, PhD, co-director of the NYU Dentistry WHO Collaborating Center for Quality–improvement, Evidence-based Dentistry.

Benzian noted that affordability and availability of and access to essential medicines, including those related to oral health, remain a challenge.

“With the new Essential Medicine list now in place, we need to ensure the dental preparations reach those who need it,” Benzian added. “This will require the translation of the global recommendations to country action, including reducing or removing taxes and tariffs for these essential dental products, and ensuring their availability, steady supply and use in primary oral healthcare.”

The decision came only months after the WHO adopted a resolution on oral health calling for the development of a Global Strategy, Action Plan, and Monitoring Framework for improvement of oral health globally until 2031, its first resolution on oral health since 2007.

More information from WHO:

Founded in 1865, New York University College of Dentistry (NYU Dentistry) is the third oldest and the largest dental school in the US, educating nearly 10 percent of all dentists. NYU Dentistry has a significant global reach with a highly diverse student body. Visit http://dental.nyu.edu for more.