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This year, World Oral Health Day is featuring pledges to inspire the general public, policymakers, healthcare professionals and other key stakeholders to "Unite for Mouth Health". (Image: FDI)

WOHD 2020: Is it time for parents to get serious about sugar?

By FDI World Dental Federation
March 20, 2020

GENEVA, Switzerland: In light of World Oral Health Day (WOHD), which is being celebrated around the world today on 20 March 2020, FDI World Dental Federation released new statistics on the willingness of parents to limit their children’s sugar intake to ensure good oral health. The global survey, which was carried out by YouGov and commissioned by FDI, showed that less than half of parents proactively limit their children’s intake of sweets, carbonated soft drinks and juice as a means of protecting their teeth.

The survey asked parents with children aged under 18 years whether they had ever done anything to ensure that their children had good oral health and, if they had, what their actions had been. The results indicated that less than a third of parents in the US limit their children’s sugar intake, while parents in the UK are the most proactive, just over half of these parents indicating that they restrict sugar levels. Parents in the UK were also ranked top for taking their children at least once a year for a dental check-up, whereas less than half of parents in the other nine countries did so.

“Oral disease is a big part of a largely preventable disease burden, and these survey results demonstrate that we are just not doing enough to avoid oral health problems at an early age,” said Dr Gerhard K. Seeberger, president of FDI. “The oral health profession has largely existed as a separate specialty divorced from medicine and medicine’s education system, but the intense debate around sugar over the past few years only illustrates the fallacy of working in silos. It is simply unproductive to be discussing sugary drinks and their link to the obesity epidemic without factoring in the obvious impact they have on the oral health of children,” he continued.

Oral health continues to be one of the most neglected areas of global health. The tragedy is that oral disease is a silent epidemic afflicting some 3.58 billion people—more than half the world’s population—but it is largely preventable. Oral diseases, such as dental caries, periodontal disease and oral cancer, are the most common forms of preventable non-communicable diseases and affect people throughout their lifetimes, causing pain, discomfort, disfigurement and even death. The collective failure to prevent oral disease costs the world economy some €408 million ($442 billion).

Much of the neglect is down to one main barrier: high treatment costs. Oral diseases are the fourth most expensive out-of-pocket diseases to treat. Furthermore, political impetus to change this scenario has been largely absent, owing in part to the fact that, historically, the mouth has been treated separately from the body in healthcare policy-making.

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