Untreated tooth decay is affecting billions of people according to research published in the Journal of Dental Research.
Professor Wagner Marcenes of Queen Mary University of London led the study, which found 2.4 billion people worldwide (35% of the population) have untreated tooth decay in their permanent teeth, and 621 million children have untreated tooth decay in their milk teeth.
‘Our report is a startling reminder of the vital need to develop effective oral health promotion strategies,’ Professor Wagner Marcenes, lead author of the research at Queen Mary University of London, said.
‘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.’
Researchers estimate over 190 million new cases of tooth decay in adults will develop annually worldwide.
In addition, the findings show tooth decay treatment has been neglected even in high-income countries, with one in three people in the UK suffering the consequences of a lack of tooth decay treatment, along with one in five in the USA.
The team analysed 192 studies of 1.5 million children aged one to 14 years old, across 74 countries, and 186 studies of 3.2 million people aged five years or older, across 67 countries.
‘We have seen a clear shift in the burden of tooth decay from children to adults,’ Professor Marcenes continues.
‘The fact that a preventable oral disease like tooth decay is the most prevalent of all diseases examined in our report is quite disturbing and should serve as a wake-up call to policymakers to increase their focus on the importance of dental health.’