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What percent of the world has tooth decay?

4 Billion People Worldwide Have Untreated Cavities: Study

Global burden of oral conditions increased 20 percent between 1990 and 2010, study shows

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WEDNESDAY, June 5, 2013 (HealthDay News) — Billions of people around the world have untreated tooth decay, a new study has found.

Researchers from the Institute of Dentistry at Queen Mary, University of London, discovered that dental problems affect up to 3.9 billion people — more than half of the world’s population.

«There are close to 4 billion people in the world who suffer from untreated oral health conditions that cause toothache and prevent them from eating and possibly sleeping properly, which is a disability,» study leader Wagner Marcenes said in a university news release. «This total does not even include small cavities or mild gum diseases, so we are facing serious problems in the population’s oral health.»

As part of a systematic assessment of global data on 291 major diseases and injuries in 2010, the researchers found untreated tooth decay or cavities in permanent teeth were the most common, affecting 35 percent of the global population.

The study, published recently in the Journal of Dental Research, also showed that oral conditions accounted for 15 million disability-adjusted life-years globally, suggesting an average health loss of 224 years per 100,000 people.

Moreover, the global burden of oral conditions increased 20 percent between 1990 and 2010, primarily due to population growth and aging. The global burden of oral problems is also shifting from severe tooth loss to severe gum disease and untreated cavities, the researchers said.

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«Tooth loss is often the final result when preventive or conservative treatments for tooth decay or gum disease fail or are unavailable,» Marcenes said. «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,» he said.

The most significant increases in the burden of oral conditions were seen in Oceania and east central and sub-Saharan Africa.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on tooth decay.

Sugars and tooth decay

Tooth decay, or ‘dental caries’, occur when acid from within the mouth attacks the enamel and dentine of the teeth causing holes or cavities to form. The acid is produced by bacteria that are found within the plaque – a sticky and thin film that repeatedly forms over the teeth. When sugar is consumed it interacts with the bacteria within the plaque to produce acid [1]. This acid is responsible for tooth decay because it slowly dissolves the enamel creating holes or cavities in the teeth. Tooth decay can lead to tooth abscesses, which may result in the tooth having to be removed [2].

Despite the decreasing levels of tooth decay over the past decades, it still remains one of the most common problems in the UK, second only to the common cold [3]. It is estimated that 1 in 3 adults suffers from dental caries and close to 1 in 4 children equally suffer from some form of tooth decay [5].

Sugar and tooth decay:

Sugars in food and drinks play a major role in the development of dental caries. Bacteria within the plaque use the sugar as energy and release acid as a waste product, which gradually dissolves the enamel in the teeth [1].
In 2010, the World Health Organisation (WHO) commissioned a systematic literature review to answer a series of questions relating to the effects of sugars on dental caries. The systematic review showed consistent evidence of moderate quality supporting a relationship between the amount of sugars consumed and dental caries development. There was also evidence of moderate quality to show that dental caries is lower when free sugars intake is less than 10% of energy intake. Dental caries progresses with age, and the effects of sugars on the dentition are lifelong. Even low levels of caries in childhood are of significance to levels of caries throughout the life-course. Analysis of the data suggests that there may be benefit in limiting sugars to less than 5% of energy intake to minimise the risk of dental caries throughout the life course [10].

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Furthermore, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) in the UK recently published a draft report in 2014 indicating a clear link between the consumption of sugars-containing foods and sugars-containing beverages and the incidence of dental caries both in deciduous and permanent teeth. SACN reviewed 11 cohort studies that identified a relationship between consumption of sugars-containing foods and the incidence of dental caries in deciduous dentition in children. They also reviewed seven cohort studies that presented evidence on the relationship between dental decay in children and sugars-sweetened beverages. A greater frequency of consumption was also found to be associated with higher incidence of dental caries [7].
Free sugars are now found in almost all food and are the most important factor in the deterioration of oral health. It is especially problematic in children who have become accustomed to sugar at an early age. Tooth decay is the leading cause for hospitalisation among 5-9 year olds in the UK, with 26,000 children being hospitalised each year due to tooth decay – in other words, 500 each week [8].

Who is at risk of tooth decay?

Everyone is at risk of tooth decay, but children and adolescents are most at risk. Dental caries are the most common cause of tooth loss in young people [3]. Plaque begins to build up on teeth only 20 minutes after we begin eating and if it is not removed effectively, tooth decay starts. People who regularly consume sugar have a higher risk of developing dental caries, particularly if the food they eat is sticky or consumed in between mealtimes. Sugars-containing snacks and sugars-sweetened beverages have particularly bad effects on teeth. People who smoke and consume alcohol are also more at risk [1]. The prevalence of dental caries is also associated with social factors – where adults from lower income households are more likely to suffer from dental caries than those from higher income households (37% compared with 26%) [6].

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Dietary Advice:

We currently consume far too much sugar in our diets. The report published by the WHO and by the SACN highlight the need for a reduction in sugars intake to 5% of our energy intake. This is the equivalent of 7 teaspoons/cubes or 30g of sugar per day for an adult. The recommendation for children is 24g for children aged 5-11 and 19g for children aged 4-6. This 5% limit is far below the current intake which is of 11.9% in children aged 1.5 to 3; 14.7% in children aged 4 to 10; and 15.6% in children 11 to 18. It is also thought that adherence to the 5% recommended sugar intake would halt the increase in obesity [9].

Other ways to reduce dental caries include [4]:

  • Brushing teeth thoroughly twice a day with fluoride-containing toothpaste as well as
    flossing daily.
  • Reducing the amount of sugars-containing sticky food, and rinsing the mouth with water if they are consumed.
  • Reduce snacking; which helps reduce the production of acid in the mouth.
  • Reduce the consumption of sugars-sweetened beverages.
  • Only eat sugary foods at mealtimes.

NB. Whole fruit is not harmful for your teeth.

[4] Bader JD, Rozier G, Harris R, et al. 2004. Dental caries prevention: The physician’s role in child oral health systematic evidence review [internet]. Rockville, Md. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US).

[5] Steele,J & O’sullivan, I, 2011. Adult dental health survey 2009: The Health and Social Care Information Centre.

[6] Steele, J & Lader, D. 2004. Social factors and oral health in children: Children’s Dental Health in the United Kingdom, 2003.

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[7] Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. 2014. “Draft Carbohydrates and Health Report” pp.98-99.

[9] National Diet and Nutrition Survey Results from Years 1, 2, 3 and 4 (combined) of the Rolling Programme. 2008/2009 – 2011/2012. URL: < NDNS_Y1_to_4_UK_report.pdf.>. [Accessed 27th January 2015].

[10] Moynihan, P. J., Kelly, S. A. M. 2013. «Effect on Caries of Restricting Sugars Intake: Systematic Review to Inform WHO Guidelines.» Journal of Dental Research. URL:

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Could a New Vaccine Prevent Tooth Decay?

Could a New Vaccine Prevent Tooth Decay?

Scheduling regular visits to a Eugene, OR dentistry ranks as an important part of protecting the health of your teeth and gums. But what if you could also improve your oral health by receiving a vaccine as part of your regular dental care at Feldmanis Dentistry? Well such a breakthrough may actually be in the works, as researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology are looking to develop a vaccine that could help to protect patients against the impact of tooth decay.

As part of their study, researchers tested a fusion of different proteins to prevent the development of tooth decay, more commonly referred to as cavities.

In early studies, the research team had attempted to protect teeth against decay by fusing the recombinant PAc proteins of the bacteria Streptococcus mutans – the primary cause of tooth decay – with proteins derived from a certain strain of E. coli. While this fusion was effective in protecting teeth from decay, researchers found it produced an unwanted response, including bodily inflammation.

In an effort to reduce these side effects, researchers developed KFD2-rPAC, a newly created fusion of different proteins.

In tests on rats and mice, the vaccine prototype was administered through the nasal cavity. When mice without cavities received this vaccine, it lowered their risk of developing cavities by 64 percent. In mice that already suffered from cavities, the vaccine had a therapeutic effect that improved the mice’s recovery by nearly 54 percent.

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Overall, the vaccine was shown to retain the original version’s high level of protection against tooth decay, while producing fewer unwanted side effects.

Tooth Decay a Global Problem

Untreated tooth decay remains a serious health problem in the majority of the industrialized world despite recent advances in medicine and dental care, according to the World Health Organization. Between 60 to 90 percent of school aged children and adults are known to suffer from cavities. This obviously suggests that a great number of who people who visit a Eugene, OR dentistry and dentists around the world could benefit from such a vaccine.

While early results from this latest study appear encouraging, additional testing is required before this could be suitable for use on humans. Once perfected, however, it could be used to help improve the oral health of billions of people worldwide.

Patients living in areas of the world where access to basic health care services like dental care are limited or non-existent could benefit the most, as children and adults in these parts of the world have little opportunity to see a dentist. As the amount of sugar people consume worldwide continues to increase, finding a means of protecting our teeth from the effect of sugar becomes even more important.

Protect Your Oral Health by Visiting a Eugene, OR Dentistry

While science and medicine offer the possibility of a brighter, healthier future, there’s still no substitute for receiving regular dental care like what we provide at Feldmanis Dentistry. Regular dental exams provide Dr. Feldmanis with the opportunity to spot the signs of tooth decay and dental disease early on while still easily treatable. When oral health problems like cavities and gum disease go untreated, they can permanently damage your oral health in ways that cannot be easily repaired.

So while the future may one day offer a vaccine that will help to prevent tooth decay, there’s still no replacement for the need to brush and floss regularly.

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