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750 million people worldwide suffering from severe gum disease

Hundreds of millions of people across the globe are suffering from severe gum infections, according to research led by Queen Mary University of London.

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A report authored by Professor Wagner Marcenes, published in the Journal of Dental Research, found that more than one in ten people worldwide are affected by severe periodontitis - a serious gum infection that damages soft tissue and destroys the bone that supports the teeth.

In some countries, such as in Argentina, 1,428 new cases of severe periodontitis per 100,000 person develop annually. This figure is double the global average.

Professor Marcenes explains: “Around 750 million people - 10.8 per cent of the world population - are affected by severe periodontitis. This total doesn’t even include mild gum diseases, so we are facing serious problems in the population’s oral health.”

“Severe periodontitis causes functional limitation, physical pain, psychological discomfort, and both physical and psychological disabilities.”

"The fact that a preventable oral disease is the 6th most prevalent of all 291 diseases and injuries examined in our study is quite disturbing and should cause all of us to redouble our efforts to raise awareness of the importance of oral health to policymakers."

The prevalence of severe periodontitis has remained the same in the last 20 years, but the number of cases has increased dramatically. This is due to a growing world population - associated with an increasing life expectancy - and a significant decrease in the prevalence of total tooth loss throughout the world from 1990 to 2010.

The findings highlight the enormous public health challenge posed by severe periodontitis, particularly in developing communities.

Global Burden of Severe Periodontitis in 1990-2010 A Systematic Review and Meta-regression reports on prevalence and incidence for all countries, 20 age groups, and both sexes for 1990 and 2010. This article is based on data collected under the research project Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors 2010 Study. Professor Marcenes lead Oral Health Research within the new Global Burden of Disease study.

Global Burden of Oral Conditions 1990-2010: A Systematic Analysis, was led by Professor Marcenes of the Institute of Dentistry at QMUL, with colleagues at the University of Washington, Seattle, and the University of Queensland, Australia.  

Professor Marcenes concludes: “The findings of the GBD 2010 study highlighted that an urgent organized social response to periodontal health problems is needed. This must deal with a wide array of health care and public health priorities for action.”

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