Dental health is still a generally neglected issue throughout the world – most people just delay their dental problem or simply ignore them until they become unbearable. Although it’s pretty simple to have a correct dental hygiene, most people simply don’t care enough about this, and as a result, almost 2 and a half billion people suffer from untreated tooth decay.

Disability-adjusted life year for dental caries per 100,000 inhabitants in 2004. This study pretty much confirmed the findings from that year. Image via Wiki Commons.

Dental cavities, also known as tooth decay represent the breakdown of teeth due to the activities of bacteria. The bacteria break down the hard tissues of the teeth (enamel, dentin and cementum) by making acid from food debris on the tooth surface; sugars are the preferred nutrient supply of bacteria, so the more sugar we eat, the more we feed the bacteria inside our mouth.  If mineral breakdown is greater than build up from sources such as saliva, caries results.

According to a new study conducted by the international Oral Health Research Group; 2.43 billion people (36% of the population) have dental caries in their permanent teeth. This problem is most prevalent in South America, northern Africa and the Middle East, and curiously, it is least prevalent in China. In the United States, dental caries is the most common chronic childhood disease, being at least five times more common than asthma.

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Image via Web MD.

In addition to an already existing problem, the issue is constantly developing. An estimated 190 million new cases of tooth decay in adults are expected to develop every year.

“Our report is a startling reminder of the vital need to develop effective oral health promotion strategies. It is alarming to see prevention and treatment of tooth decay has been neglected at this level because if left untreated it can cause severe pain, mouth infection and it can negatively impact children’s growth,” commented the study’s lead author, Prof Wagner Marcenes, of Queen Mary University of London.

He stressed that this is an issue policy makers should deal with more carefully – untreated dental issues have significant negative consequences on the quality of life and also lead to massive financial losses in time. The study also highlighted the problem of dietary habits when it comes to dental health. Frequent snacking and the consumption of high amounts of sugary food and drinks are now more common than ever – contributing to this problem.