New Delhi: Incidences of oral diseases are set to rise as more and more people are exposed to the underlying causes, including sugar, tobacco, and alcohol, warned a series on oral health published in the Lancet journal on Thursday. The Lancet series also highlighted the emerging evidence of food, beverage, and sugar industry’s influence on dental research and professional bodies.

Oral diseases, including tooth decay, gum disease and oral cancers, affect almost half of the world’s population, with untreated dental decay the most common health condition worldwide. In India, oral disorders are the most prevalent disease condition, and have remained so for the past 30 years. Prevalence of oral cancer is highest in South Asian countries, the series added.

Besides leading to lower quality of life, oral diseases have a major economic impact on both individuals and the wider health care system. Aggregate direct treatment costs due to dental diseases in South Asia stands at almost $12.84 billion, it said.

The Lancet Series on Oral Health led by University College London (UCL) researchers brought together 13 academic and clinical experts from 10 countries to better understand why oral diseases have persisted globally over the last three decades, despite scientific advancements in the field, and why prevalence has increased in low- and middle- income countries (LMIC), and among socially disadvantaged and vulnerable people, no matter where they live.

“Dentistry is in a state of crisis," said Professor Richard Watt, chair and honorary consultant in Dental Public Health at UCL and lead author of the Series, adding that 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 series said though oral diseases present a major global public health burden, affecting 3.5 billion people worldwide, oral health has been largely ignored by the global health community. With a treat-over-prevent model, modern dentistry has failed to combat the global challenge of oral diseases, giving rise to calls for the radical reform of dental care.

“We need tighter regulation and legislation to restrict marketing and influence of the sugar, tobacco and alcohol industries, if we are to tackle the root causes of oral conditions," said Watt.

The Indian government’s Ayushman Bharat Yojana or Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, which aim to strengthen primary health care and providing financial protection to the most vulnerable section of the society, have provisions of dental treatment for all.

“The scheme is aimed at creating awareness, screening and symptomatic care for oral diseases, counselling for tobacco cessation and referral to Tobacco Cessation Centers," said Manu Raj Mathur, Head-Health Policy and Additional Professor, Public Health Foundation of India.

“A new iteration of Oral Health Policy for the country is also on the anvil. The Lancet Series comes at a very crucial time for the country as it highlights the importance of oral health for overall health and well-being and presents a strong argument to include oral health care in the comprehensive primary care programme as well as covered under the national health insurance scheme," he said.

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