Oral health: often overlooked – The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health
Tooth decay in children is both a visible and invisible problem. Children with tooth decay may have noticeable difficulty eating, speaking and sleeping, experience distress and pain, and smile less, which in turn affects their development, well-being, family life and social and school performance. Yet, as oral diseases disproportionately affect the most marginalized and poorest members of society, such as children living in poverty, refugees, people with disabilities and indigenous populations, their health burden is underestimated and the global epidemic of oral disease is not receiving the attention it deserves.
These necessary large-scale changes require commitment and action from all key stakeholders, including academics, health practitioners, dental associations and governments, as well as the World Dental Federation FDI and the WHO, to place oral health at the forefront of global and public health. agendas. In this regard, the UK Government’s commitment to expand supervised toothbrushing programs in nursery and primary schools is a welcome step towards change.
Like obesity and other non-communicable diseases, advocacy and policy changes to address broader socio-economic and market determinants must be part of the solution. Evidence-based policies – including taxes or levies on sugary products, stricter restrictions on advertising and promoting sugary foods and drinks to children and adolescents, and water fluoridation – should be implemented as a priority. Regulators should also require manufacturers to reformulate products to reduce sugar content, especially in baby foods. Above all, key stakeholders should avoid sugar industry funding and sponsorship.
Oral health is an integral part of child health. It should not be a luxury for the rich, nor sacrificed for commercial gain. Interventions to prevent tooth decay – proper tooth brushing, reduced sugar intake, regular dental appointments – are simple and cost effective. But these interventions need to be implemented equitably and accompanied by strong advocacy and policy actions to challenge the sugar environment we live in.
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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