Dentistry is in a state of crisis around the world because people are eating too much sugar and smoking and drinking too much, researchers have warned.
The study said wealthy countries such as the UK are trapped in a treatment-over-prevention cycle, with underlying problems being neglected by public health policy in favour of fixing problems when they arise.
Particularly concerning is the population’s excessive sugar consumption, which the dentists said needs urgently addressing.
Professor Richard Watt, chairman and honorary consultant in dental public health at University College London, and lead author of the review, said a fundamentally different approach is required to effectively tackle the global burden of oral diseases.
In the first paper of a two-part series in the Lancet, reported by the Mail, the authors wrote that development in high-tech treatment has taken priority over prevention in high-income countries.
“Oral diseases have substantial effects, causing pain, sepsis, reduced quality of life, lost school days, family disruption, and decreased work productivity, and the costs of dental treatment can be considerable,” they warned.
They said the prevention of tooth decay, one of the most common chronic diseases globally, requires worldwide implementation of the World Health Organisation’s guideline on sugar intake.
The WHO recommends individuals consume less than 10% of total energy intake from free sugars and that intake below 5% would be beneficial.
“Dental treatment alone cannot solve this problem,” the researchers said. “A radically different approach is now needed to tackle this global health challenge. Current dental care and public health responses have been largely inadequate, inequitable, and costly, leaving billions of people without access to even basic oral health care.”
The researchers called for stronger policy approaches to address the underlying cause of oral diseases.