The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling on the countries of Europe to take urgent measures against oral diseases such as caries and tooth loss. One in two adults (50.1 percent) in the WHO Europe region had a major oral disease in 2019, according to a WHO report released on Thursday. An estimated 3.5 billion people are affected worldwide, and almost 466 million in the European region, said WHO Regional Director Hans Kluge. Disadvantaged and marginalized population groups are disproportionately affected.

The Region’s 53 European and Central Asian member states must improve access to basic oral healthcare as part of universal healthcare that is safe, effective and either free or at least affordable, said the Copenhagen-based WHO Europe. Oral health is an essential part of healthcare, emphasized Kluge. “Many of our most basic human functions – speaking and communicating, eating, breathing and, last but not least, smiling – depend on good oral health.”

In addition to the consumption of sugar, the WHO lists the consumption of tobacco and alcohol as well as trauma and poor oral hygiene as the main drivers of oral diseases. Dental caries is the world’s most common non-communicable disease, but it doesn’t have to be, explained Kluge. “We know what needs to be done.” Among other things, new political strategies would have to be developed and measures implemented aimed at reducing the intake of sugar, for example when eating and drinking.