Oral health

World Oral Health Report 2003

Continuous improvement of oral health in the 21st century - the approach of the WHO Global Oral Health Programme

Chronic diseases and injuries are the leading health problems in all but a few parts of the world. The rapidly changing disease patterns throughout the world are particularly linked to changing lifestyles which include diets rich in sugar, wide-spread use of tobacco and increased consumption of alcohol.

In addition to socio-environmental conditions, oral health is highly related to the mentioned lifestyle factors which are common risks to most chronic diseases. Oral diseases qualify as major public health problems due to their high prevalence and incidence in all regions of the world and as for all diseases the greatest burden of oral diseases is on the disadvantaged and socially marginalized populations. The severe impact in terms of pain and suffering, impairment of function and their effect on quality of life must also be considered.

Traditional treatment of oral diseases is extremely costly in several industrialized countries and not feasible or possible to most low-income and middle-income countries. The WHO Global Strategy for prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases and the common risk factor approach is a new strategy to managing prevention and control of oral diseases. The WHO Oral Health Programme also has strengthened its work for improved oral health globally through links with other technical programmes within the Department of Health Promotion, Surveillance, Prevention and Management of Noncommunicable Diseases (HPM).

This document outlines the current oral health situation at global level and the strategies and approaches for better oral health in the 21st Century.

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