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Episode #85 - Oral health

21 November 2022 | Science conversation

Summary

A new WHO report shows that half of world’s population suffers from diseases of teeth, gums or the mouth. Why is oral health important for everyone? What conditions can result from poor oral health? How can we maintain and improve oral health? Dr Benoit Varenne explains in Science in 5. 

Podcast

Transcript

Vismita Gupta-Smith - WHO Communications

Why is oral health important? What are the conditions that can result from poor oral health? And what are
some of the steps each of us can take to improve our oral health?

Hello and welcome to Science in 5, I am Vismita Gupta Smith. We are talking to Dr Benoit Varenne today.
Welcome Benoit. Let's start with why WHO places so much importance on oral health. Why is it important
for everyone?

Dr Benoit Varenne - Oral Health Programme Officer, NCD Prevention Department, WHO

You're right. Oral health is everybody's business. Oral health is the health of our mouth, our teeth and our
gums. Oral health is so fundamental to our ability to breathe, to speak, to eat, but also even to smile. The
mouth is a sort of starting point of our body systems, defence and immunity.

The new WHO report tells us that almost half of the world's population is affected by some oral disease, and
vulnerable and marginalized populations are particularly affected.

This means that oral health and poor oral health is a marker of health inequalities. When oral health is
compromised by disease or injury, general health is also affected. Oral disease can also have a social and
economic impact in individuals and families by increasing household expenditures and seriously affecting
people's quality of life and well-being.

Vismita Gupta-Smith
Benoit explained to us what are the conditions that can result from poor oral health?

Dr Benoit Varenne
The most common oral diseases and conditions are dental caries or tooth decay, gum disease, tooth loss,
dental trauma or oral cancer. All these diseases are preventable and treatable in the early stages. In more
severe cases, oral disease can lead to disability and even death. Oral diseases are caused by a range of risk
factors. They include tobacco use, alcohol consumption and unhealthy food and drinks. All these risk factors
are shared with other medical conditions or noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer, chronic
respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease or mental disorders.

The biggest challenges are cost and access to oral health care. In many countries oral health care are not
accessible or not affordable for most people. Implementing prevention measures such as in schools,
communities, and in work places is our best approach.

Vismita Gupta-Smith
Benoit, speak to us about how we can maintain and improve our oral health?

Dr Benoit Varenne
This is a great question, Vismita. We have a number of top tips valid for all ages. The most effective measure
to prevent dental caries is to brush your teeth twice a day after the breakfast and before going to bed with a
fluoride toothpaste. Something to remember is using toothpaste without fluoride is not effective against
dental caries.

Second, to help prevent dental caries and maintain general health, reduce consumption of sugar
in food and drink. Water is the best drink every day at any time.

Another tip is to protect your teeth and face from injury. Use protective equipment when you are doing sport,
wear a helmet that covers the mouth if you are riding a motorcycle and do not forget your seatbelt if you are
travelling in a car.

Finally, to lower the risk of oral cancer, stop smoking, quit smoking, all forms of tobacco and reduce alcohol
consumption. We should keep in mind that maintaining good oral health has a positive impact to our general
health, well-being and quality of life.
Vismita Gupta-Smith
Thank you, Benoit. That was Science in 5 today. Until next time then, stay safe, stay healthy and stick with
science.

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