Untreated Dental Conditions Affect Billions Worldwide

The international oral health situation is looking pretty dismal as a recent report shows that billions of people around the world are suffering from a variety of untreated dental problems.  This report led by Professor Wagner Marcenes of the Institute of Dentistry at Queen Mary, University of London, was recently published in the Journal of Dental Research.  The report discusses the results of an international research team led by Professor Marcenes that investigated oral health worldwide as part of the 2010 Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study.

The Study: Untreated Dental Conditions

The research team assessed 291 major oral diseases and injuries and discovered that as many as 3.9 billion people throughout the world suffer from these conditions.  That accounts for over half of the entire world’s population.  The most commonly occurring condition found in the study was untreated tooth decay or cavities in permanent teeth, known as dental caries, which affect 35 percent of the population.

According to Professor Marcenes, “This total does not even include small cavities or mild gum diseases, so we are facing serious problems in the population’s oral health.”  Professor Marcenes goes on to state that these conditions “cause toothache and prevent [people] from eating and possibly sleeping properly, which is a disability.”

The level of disability caused by tooth loss falls between that of moderate heart failure and moderate stroke consequences according to the GBD 2010 study.


A trend that was discovered by Professor Marcenes’s team of researchers is that oral health problems are shifting away from tooth loss and more towards periodontitis and untreated caries.  They also discovered a global increase in the burden of oral diseases of 20 percent between 1990 and 2010 even though there is a 0.5 percent reduction with all conditions considered together.  The increase is attributed mostly to population growth and aging while Professor Marcenes claims that better dental services have contributed to the shift away from tooth loss:

“Tooth loss is often the final result when preventative or conservative treatments for tooth decay or gum disease fail or are unavailable.  It is likely that current dental services are coping better to prevent tooth loss than in the past but major efforts are needed to prevent the occurrence of gum diseases and tooth decay.”

Professor Marcenes concludes that “Ironically the longer a person keeps their teeth the greater the pressure on services to treat them.”

The Global Burden of Disease, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study which included Professor Marcenes and his team of researchers began in the spring of 2007 and involved almost 500 scientists who systematically assessed global data on all diseases and injuries.  Their study found that the burden of oral conditions increased the most in Eastern, Central, and Sub-Saharan Africa as well as in Oceania.  Professor Marcenes explains that these findings could “shake up the setting of health priorities around the world,” and that they “highlighted that an urgent organized social response to oral health problems is needed.”

The best way to improve your personal oral health is to keep regular visits to your dentist twice a year. Contact us if you need to schedule an appointment or have questions related to your oral health.


Mary, Q. (2013, June 3). \”Billions Worldwide Suffer From Major Tooth Decay.\” Medical News Today. Retrieved from

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