By Juan Manuel Frade, general director of Align Technology in Spain and Portugal
Oral diseases are among the most common noncommunicable diseases worldwide and can affect patients of all ages1. According to the General Council of Dentists2, there is a direct relationship between oral health and general health, since the bacteria responsible for oral diseases -such as caries or periodontal disease- pass into the bloodstream through small arteries, thereby that can reach organs such as the heart, lungs, kidneys or pancreas, increasing the risk of suffering systemic diseases. Therefore, maintaining a healthy mouth is crucial for its proper functioning and for our health in general.
There are some problems, such as the misalignment of the teeth, that are usually considered simply cosmetic. However, malocclusions can indicate deeper complications in our oral health. For example, correct alignment of the dental arch is crucial for the gums to fit better around the teeth and for patients to enjoy better oral health. It is estimated that in 20223 there were approximately 3.5 billion oral diseases and conditions worldwide, many of them preventable. If left untreated, the consequences of these can be serious, impacting families, communities and healthcare systems in general.
The current care barriers aggravate the consequences
A doctor-led approach is paramount to successful patient care, and working closely with professionals to improve practices is the key to transforming patients’ smiles.
Unfortunately, it is not easy or affordable for many to access professional dental care. Many people do not have access to the tools, treatment or education that help prevent poor oral health. In addition to causing physical and emotional discomfort to patients, the impacts of oral diseases and conditions place an increasing burden on healthcare systems around the world; situation that is aggravated by the number of patients who have not been treated in recent years.
Highlight the need for stronger global action
Although oral diseases are often overshadowed by other higher impact health problems, awareness of the problems that poor oral health can cause and the need to address them has increased. This is demonstrated by the World Health Organization’s announcement of a historic oral health strategy4, whose bold new vision calls for universal oral health coverage worldwide by 2030. This strategy aims to address the social and financial barriers that prevent access to effective care and addressing common risk factors for oral diseases and conditions. The need for coordinated global action is compelling, but localized and focused efforts to address the needs of patients can also have a positive impact on the ground.
Meeting the needs of vulnerable patients
According to the World Health Organization5, the high costs of oral care are a significant barrier to accessing health care, so it is crucial that we identify and offer alternatives for patients to achieve the smile they have always wanted. Offering treatment through charitable drives is one way that orthodontists can help these patients and make a positive impact in their communities. It is something that we offer to patients with maxillofacial problems -problems related to the jaw and the facial region-, since the treatment can be uphill. These health problems or contraindications may affect the ability of patients to receive treatment with fixed metal appliances for teeth alignment. Despite the belief that tooth alignment is for cosmetic purposes only, it is an essential part of our overall health and well-being and plays a key role in promoting effective oral hygiene and improving cleanliness6.
It is also important that doctors are supported in providing dental treatment to vulnerable people, who often have difficulty accessing adequate dental services with the specific adjustments needed, either because they cannot fit orthodontics or simply cannot afford the cost. of the treatment. Ongoing training of professionals is essential to address these important issues in practice and raise the needs of vulnerable patients.
Tackling health inequalities
Despite the promising advances in healthcare in recent decades, inequalities remain as many people are unable to access the care they need. Yet, thanks to the work of many organizations around the world, we are addressing these inequalities – including those that affect access to oral care. For example, Operation Smile, a global nonprofit medical organization, has performed hundreds of thousands of free surgeries on people born with cleft lip and palate in low- and middle-income countries. Together, we envision a future in which health and dignity are enhanced through safe surgery, in keeping with our mission to transform smiles and change lives.
Maintaining a healthy and aligned smile should be an important part of everyone’s healthy routine, as good oral health is important for optimal quality of life. There is a clear need to offer more support to those who face barriers that make it difficult for them to achieve it. Together, with the expertise of qualified orthodontists, we are committed to building a future where oral health is prioritized for each and every person.
1 WHO (2022) https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/landmark-global-strategy-on-oral-health-adopted-at-world-health-assembly-75)
2 General Council of Dentists https://consejodentistas.es/comunicacion/actualidad-consejo/notas-de-prensa-consejo/item/2074-el-55-de-los-espanoles-reconoce-tener-algun-problema-de -oral-health.html
3 WHO (2022) Oral health (who.int)
4 WHO (2022) https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/landmark-global-strategy-on-oral-health-adopted-at-world-health-assembly-75
5 WHO (2022) Oral health (who.int)
6 GMS Hyg Infect Control (2022) Health promotion through structured oral hygiene and good tooth alignment – PMC (nih.gov)
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