Half of the World’s Population Has Bad Teeth
If you aren’t having trouble with your teeth, chances are the person next to you is. That’s because more than half of the world’s population suffers from “major untreated dental problems,” according to a recent report led by personnel at the Queen Mary University of London’s Institute of Dentistry. The information, gathered as part of the 20-year Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study, came from nearly 500 scientists worldwide who analyzed data on diseases and injuries from around the globe over the past two decades.
The results: 3.9 billion people — more than half of the Earth’s 7.1 billion population — have tooth problems bad enough to be labeled a “disability.” In fact, tooth decay was the most common of all 291 diseases and injuries (dental or otherwise) tracked in the GBD Study, affecting 35% of humans. The nearly 4 billion figure doesn’t even take into account small cavities or minor gum diseases, meaning the percentage of people with any sort of dental issues is much higher than the 55% of the population with serious problems.
As hard as it is to believe, oral conditions accounted for more loss of life (that is, shortened and disabled lives, or “years lived with disability”) than 25 of the 28 types of cancer included in the study. And unfortunately for our teeth, the trend is worsening. While the total rate of all the diseases and injuries in the study decreased by 0.5% over the past 20 years, the rate of oral diseases increased by a whopping 20%, with the largest increases in Africa and Oceania (i.e., Australia and surrounding nations in the South Pacific).
The study attributes the increase to a population that is growing in both number and age. Study lead Professor Wagner Marcenes hypothesizes that when an older population is combined with oral health efforts that have led to slower rate of tooth loss, the increase in the number of teeth correlates to an increase in gum disease and tooth decay. “Ironically,” he states, “the longer a person keeps their teeth, the greater the pressure on services to treat them.”