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FDI: Serious Oral Health Challenges Facing Developing Countries

Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Geneva, 25 February 2014 – FDI World Dental Federation has identified the most serious challenges facing developing countries in South America, Africa, and Asia in their pursuit of optimal oral health. They include poor access to adequate care, lack of quality dental materials at an affordable price and insufficient investment in dental care.

The figures are stark: the average density of dentists to head of population in Africa is 1 to 150,000; in industrialized countries, the average is 1 to 5,000. In Ethiopia, the lack of access is even more dramatic with a density of only 1 dentist per 1 million people. This information derives from the Oral Health Atlas developed by FDI World Dental Federation, which provides a clear picture of dental health around the world[1].

Even in countries with fast growing populations of dentists, unequal access to dental care is a major obstacle to optimal oral health. India registers some 20,000 new dental graduates each year, yet there are still not enough dentists to adequately deal with the population’s needs. Brazil has a high proportion of dentists but they tend to remain in urban areas, leaving vast rural areas, without enough qualified dental practitioners to meet the needs of the population.  

The problem is compounded by economic and social inequalities, which force many new graduates to seek work abroad or to move to urban areas in search of a better life and better professional opportunities. The result: large swathes of population lack proper assistance to meet their oral health needs.

“Developing countries face great challenges in their quest for optimal oral care.” stated Dr. Tin Chun Wong, FDI President, “Oral health is integral to general health and a basic human right, and we must ensure cost-effective solutions become available to all. Promoting better research and obtaining valid data will help us achieve this objective.”


Oral diseases

The damage to oral health due to poor access to care is exacerbated by the fact that many developing countries are disproportionally affected by a number of oral diseases. For example, an estimated 140,000 people, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa, South America and Asia, are affected by Noma, a neglected, deadly and disfiguring disease of poverty affecting mainly children. The combination of high risk of oral disease and low access to care, results in many patients not getting adequate treatment in time. In the case of Noma, this can result in an 80% mortality rate.

For other oral diseases, which could be identified and treated during routine check-ups, the delay in access means that when many patients are finally able to visit their local dentist, it is often too late and only one option remains: tooth extraction. This can become up to 90% of dental work in countries such as Tanzania, where the lack of access to qualified oral health care is a prominent issue.

About FDI

FDI World Dental Federation serves as the principal representative body for more than one million dentists worldwide, developing health policy and continuing education programmes, speaking as a unified voice for dentistry in international advocacy, and supporting member associations in global oral health promotion activities. Over the years, it has developed programmes, initiatives, campaigns, policies and congresses, always with a view to occupying a space that no other not-for-profit group can claim.

FDI works at national and international level through its own activities and those of its member dental associations. It is in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO) and a member of the World Health Professionals Alliance (WHPA). For more information, visit:


About World Oral Health Day

World Oral Health Day is celebrated every year on 20th March. The theme of World Oral Health Day 2014 is ‘Celebrating Healthy Smiles’. It reflects the major contribution oral health makes to our lives. Around the world, FDI member dental associations, schools, companies and other groups will celebrate the day with events organized under this single, unifying and simple message. For more information, visit:


World Oral Health Day 2014 partners


LISTERINE® brand Mouthwash, part of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies

LISTERINE® Mouthwash is the world’s number one daily mouthwash with antibacterial properties to clean the mouth, freshen breath and fight plaque.   Over 50 clinical studies support the plaque reduction efficacy of LISTERINE® Mouthwash when used routinely as an adjunct to mechanical plaque removal. LISTERINE® Mouthwash has been used by more than one billion people in more than 85 countries.  Professional dental organizations around the world have awarded LISTERINE® Mouthwash with their seals of acceptance. LISTERINE® is distributed by Johnson & Johnson Healthcare Products Division of McNEIL-PPC, Inc., a part of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies, which is the world’s sixth-largest consumer health company and is a segment of Johnson & Johnson, the world’s most comprehensive and broadly based manufacturer of health care products.



Unilever Oral Care is a leading global manufacturer of oral care products, including toothpaste, toothbrushes and mouthwash, represented by brands including Signal, Pepsodent, Close Up, Mentadent, Aim, P/S and Zhong Hua. Unilever recognizes that good oral health and the sense of well-being and confidence it brings, is a vital element to making people look good, feel good and get more out of life and that small every day actions, such as twice daily brushing with a fluoride toothpaste, add up to make a big difference for the world. Through its science, products, partnerships and international network, Unilever Oral Care is privileged with the power to make a sustainable and measurable improvement to oral health around the world.


Henry Schein

Henry Schein, Inc. is the world's largest provider of health care products and services to office-based dental, animal health and medical practitioners.  The Company also serves dental laboratories, government and institutional health care clinics, and other alternate care sites.  A Fortune 500®[2] Company and a member of the NASDAQ 100®[3] Index, Henry Schein employs more than 16,000 Team Schein Members and serves more than 800,000 customers. The Company offers a comprehensive selection of products and services, including value-added solutions for operating efficient practices and delivering high-quality care.  Henry Schein operates through a centralized and automated distribution network, with a selection of more than 96,000 branded products and Henry Schein private-brand products in stock, as well as more than 110,000 additional products available as special-order items. The Company also offers its customers exclusive, innovative technology solutions, including practice management software and e-commerce solutions, as well as a broad range of financial services. Headquartered in Melville, N.Y., Henry Schein has operations or affiliates in 25 countries.  The Company's sales reached a record $9.6 billion in 2013, and have grown at a compound annual rate of nearly 17% since Henry Schein became a public company in 1995. For more information, visit the Henry Schein Web site at


Wrigley Oral Healthcare Program

The Wrigley Oral Healthcare Program (WOHP) partners with dental professionals worldwide, helping them improve their patients’ oral health through one extra simple and enjoyable step in their daily routine: chewing sugarfree gum after eating and drinking on-the-go. For more than 25 years, WOHP has supported independent clinical research into the benefits of chewing gum, including saliva stimulation, plaque acid neutralization and tooth strengthening to help dental professionals and their patients understand the role of sugarfree gum as a convenient tool for everyday oral care. Today, Wrigley operates oral healthcare programs in 47 countries worldwide. WOHP is one example of how we make a difference to people and the planet through performance, and how we incorporate our principles based approach to business into all that we do. For more information, visit:

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