Dr. Habib Benzian Co-edits First-ever WHO Global Oral Health Status Report

Dr. Habib Benzian Co-edits First-ever WHO Global Oral Health Status Report

The World Health Organization (WHO) has published its first-ever Global Oral Health Status Report, which creates a comprehensive picture of oral disease burden with data profiles for 194 countries and provides unique insights into key areas of oral health.

The report—co-edited by an editorial team consisting of NYU Dentistry’s Dr. Habib Benzian, University College London’s Dr. Richard Watt, WHO oral health officers Dr. Benoit Varenne and Dr. Yuka Makino, and WHO consultant Nicole Stauf—shows that almost half of the world’s population (45% or 3.5 billion people) suffer from oral diseases, with three out of every four affected people living in low- and middle-income countries.

“Oral health globally is in an alarming state with an all-time high of oral diseases. We hope that this major WHO status report will end the silence around oral diseases and their negative consequences for populations and economies,” said Dr. Benzian, the co-director of the NYU Dentistry WHO Collaborating Center for Quality-improvement, Evidence-based Dentistry and research professor in the Department of Epidemiology & Health Promotion. “The report is part of a series of policy initiatives to bring oral health to the forefront of global health and decision-makers. A clear data-driven diagnosis is a crucial basis for decisive action.”

The report highlights a rapid increase of oral diseases, including caries, severe gum disease, tooth loss, and oral cancers, with global cases of oral diseases increasing by 1 billion over the last 30 years—a clear indication that many people do not have access to prevention and treatment.

The report also underscores the glaring inequities 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 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.

The Lancet published a comment—with Dr. Benzian as the lead author—coinciding with the Global Oral Health Status Report. The authors write that the report articulates the WHO’s vision for global oral health: universal health coverage for oral health by 2030. “The idea that oral health is purely a private matter and an expensive non-essential health-care issue is challenged in the Global Oral Health Status Report,” Benzian and his colleagues write.

Beyond improving access to oral health care through universal health coverage, the Global Oral Health Status Report also outlines opportunities to improve the state of global oral health, including addressing common risk factors (e.g., sugar, tobacco, alcohol), improving access to effective and affordable fluoride toothpaste, redefining oral health workforce models to respond to population needs, and collecting and integrating oral health data into national health monitoring systems.

“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. “WHO is committed to providing guidance and support to countries so that all people, wherever they live and whatever their income, have the knowledge and tools needed to look after their teeth and mouths, and to access services for prevention and care when they need them.”

Dr. Benzian joined the WHO to launch the report in a public webinar on Friday, Nov. 18, and the WHO released a Science in 5 video on the report on Monday, Nov. 21.