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Research Shows Billions Are Affected by Oral Health Conditions

In all areas throughout the world, there is an urgent need for community knowledge and response to oral health conditions, as many of these factors affect an individual's overall health.
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Most people know that brushing their teeth, flossing and using mouthwash are the best ways to prevent bad breath, cavities, gum disease and other issues in the mouth. However, new research shows that billions of people worldwide are suffering from tooth decay due to untreated conditions. From consuming processed foods to partaking in unhealthy habits like drinking alcohol regularly and smoking cigarettes, individuals across the globe are suffering from tooth decay, which can cause additional problems throughout the entire body.

A report published in the Journal of Dental Research, "Global Burden of Oral Conditions in 1990-2010: A Systematic Analysis," compared figures from 1990 and 2010 based on the amount of reported oral health issues, which included severe tooth loss, gum disease and untreated caries. More than 500 scientists took part in the study, with team members located at both the University of Washington, Seattle, and the University of Queensland, Australia. Within the decade, these oral health conditions increased by 20.8 percent, which researchers believe is due to the growth of the population and aging.

According to the research, roughly four billion people -- nearly half of the world's population -- have oral health conditions that can lead to other issues like an inability to eat properly or sleep at night. Individuals who suffer from untreated conditions such as tooth decay or cavities in permanent teeth make up 35 percent of the global population. Of all the 291 major ailments studied, cavities were the most common.

Researchers also found that less people are suffering from tooth loss, and more concern should be aimed at protecting against periodontal disease and untreated caries. The international team of researchers determined that oral health trends and issues differed by age group, but there was little change between regarding gender. In addition, the results have proven that there is a large need for better dental care in several developing countries. The biggest increase in oral cavities was in Eastern regions at 52 percent, Central 51 percent, and Sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania at 48 percent.

In all areas throughout the world, there is an urgent need for community knowledge and response to oral health conditions, as many of these factors affect an individual's overall health. Heart conditions and some cancers can be linked to issues in the oral cavity, according to some studies.

"Tooth loss is often the final result when preventive or conservative treatments for tooth decay or gum disease fail or are unavailable," said Dr. Wagner Marcenes of the Institute of Dentistry at Queen Mary. "It is likely that current dental services are coping better to prevent tooth loss than in the past, but major efforts are needed to prevent the occurrence and development of gum diseases and tooth decay. Ironically, the longer a person keeps their teeth, the greater the pressure on services to treat them."

Conditions Linked to Oral Health

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several diseases and health conditions that can be influenced by the cleanliness of your mouth. Tooth decay begins when bacteria in the mouth create acid that eats away at the teeth, causing cavities. When there is an increased amount of bacteria inhabiting the mouth, the risk of these microbes spreading through the bloodstream is also amplified.

For example, endocarditis occurs when these bacteria travel to the inner lining of the heart and cause an infection. This can create damage to the heart valves, or even destroy them. Mild bouts of endocarditis can be cured with antibiotics, but more severe cases may require surgery. It can also be a life-threatening situation in rare circumstances.

Researchers and scientists have linked cardiovascular disease and diabetes to poor oral health conditions such as tooth decay for many years. Similar to endocarditis, the increased amount of bacteria in the mouth can find its way into the bloodstream and clog arteries, which can cause strokes and other life-threatening conditions. Individuals with diabetes are more prone to have tooth decay or dental caries because they have a lower resistance of infection. People who suffer from diabetes are more likely to experience gum disease or periodontal disease. In conjunction, some research has shown that people with gum disease have a more challenging time controlling blood sugar levels. Although there are skeptics, many researchers believe diabetes and oral health is a two-way street.

The Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors study was conducted to change people's perspectives on overall health and the importance of maintaining a clean mouth. Researchers used disability-adjusted life-years and years lived with disability as a platform to determine the amount of burden put on individuals. Their calculations found that oral health conditions made up an average health loss of 224 years per 100,000 people. However, these statistics varied by age group and region.

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