News / Africa

Study: Bad Teeth, Gums Major Problems

Doctor Abdul Salam, a dentist, checks a cavity of villager Gul Mohammad at his clinic in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday Dec.14, 2002. People living in villages often come to the city for medical check ups, as there are no doctors in the villages. (AP Photo/
Doctor Abdul Salam, a dentist, checks a cavity of villager Gul Mohammad at his clinic in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday Dec.14, 2002. People living in villages often come to the city for medical check ups, as there are no doctors in the villages. (AP Photo/

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
A new report says nearly four-billion people – more than half the world’s population – have major tooth decay, or cavities. Health officials warn that poor oral health can lead to social and psychological problems.


Professor Wagner Marcenes led of team of researchers as part of the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study. It listed untreated tooth decay, or cavities, as the most common of all 291 major diseases and injuries.

“It was a massive effort. We had about 500 scientists work on it. And we reviewed all literature, all data on all disease and then came with estimations -- that was the report that has been recently published,” he said.

Marcenes is with the Institute of Dentistry at Queen Mary, University of London.

Tooth decay, or cavities in permanent teeth, is also known as carries.

“Carries is a chronic disease that shares the same risk factors as cancer, cardiovascular disease. What we’re having now is an increase in disease from highly developed countries happening in sub-Saharan Africa and probably it will be in other areas of Africa, too,” he said.

In fact, the study says the “largest increases in the burden of oral conditions” were in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania. Marcenes was not surprised at the study’s results.

“It tends to get less attention than some other disease. For example, HIV obviously [is] a much more relevant issue for the health of the population,” he said.

He said that tooth decay is rising sharply in Africa because developing countries are becoming more like Western nations in some ways.

“It is likely to be related to a change in diet. Our industrialized diet leads to chronic disease, which includes carries. And that may be the main explanation.”

The diets of developed nations are rich in sugar, a leading culprit in oral health problems. Marcenes says prior to the 19th Century, people had few cavities because sugar was not readily available. It’s also a major contributor to obesity.

Developed nations dramatically reduced the incidence of tooth decay and cavities by adding fluoride to their drinking water.

He  said, “The fluoridation of the water is a highly important issue, and yes, it came from research in America. It has contributed enormously to that reduction in carries.”

But while the fluoride made teeth more resistant to the bacteria that cause tooth decay, it also allowed people to eat more sweets.

Oral health problems, Marcenes said, have a major negative effect on a person’s quality of life. For one, they make eating difficult. Second, people may change what they eat and opt for softer foods, such as those with more fat. However, the biggest issue, he found, is both social and psychological.

“We have very strong evidence in the literature that the mouth plays a big role on socialization. People feel embarrassed about having bad teeth. Then they tend to smile less. They tend to communicate less. And the familiar thing is to see someone laughing with their hand in front of the mouth because they don’t want people to see.”

Professor Marcenes said that adolescents with bad teeth can face long-term self-esteem issues.

He hopes African and Asian nations will see the health problems of the West and not follow their dietary example. He’s calling for an “urgent, organized, social response” to the widespread lack of oral health.

“We need a public health approach that deals with the causes of the disease, rather than deal with each disease independently because the most disabling disease share the same cause,” he said.

Marcenes is calling for a holistic approach that includes a healthier diet and the development of new and cheaper dental materials and treatments.

You May Like

Sunni-Shi’ite Divide Threatens Middle East Stability

Analysts say ancient dispute that traces back to Islamic Revolution is fueling modern day unrest More

Shifting Demographics Lie Beneath Racial Tensions in Ferguson

As Missouri suburb morphed from majority white to majority black, observers say power structure remained static More

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Restriction is toughest since Soviet era, though critics reject move as patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid