A Dental Cavity-Free Future: What Will It Take?

Would it be possible to achieve a dental cavity-free future? A recent article says yes, if there are global collaborations and international policy consensus. The article authors, N.B. Pitts and C. Mayne, argue that not only is it possible, but it is also very important that international leaders start working towards making cavities a health problem of the past.

The article, Making Cavities History: A Global Policy Consensus for Achieving a Dental Cavity–Free Future, was published in the JDR Clinical and Translational Research in July 2021.

Caries is the world’s most prevalent non-communicable disease, according to the WHO. Despite that, caries and cavities are typically ignored in health policy. Previous global health recommendations have not explicitly mentioned cavities, even though they are preventable. Pitts and Mayne would like to see that change.

“We can demonstrate that a cavity-free future is possible and also widely desirable,” the authors write.

Dental caries and cavities contribute to a variety of health problems. In terms of oral health, unhealthy mouth bacteria can lead to periodontal disease, gingivitis, tooth loss, mouth sores and a buildup of plaque, according to Colgate. Throughout the rest of the body, poor dental health is associated with respiratory infections, diabetes and dementia.

So, what did the authors propose to make cavities history? They give four directives, co-created by international representatives from across the global dental community, for leaders to start tackling the problem around the world. The recommendations are:

  • Population and health professional education and behavior must drive change around primary prevention of non-communicable diseases.
  • It is critical to tackle sugar and other major risk factors for non-communicable diseases.
  • There needs to be integrated primary and secondary caries prevention throughout life.
  • We need systemic surveillance data to monitor actions and progress.

Education, prevention and surveillance are important aspects of the recommendations. Specifically, the authors mention that lower sugar consumption and improved overall nutrition would be beneficial, not only for oral health but for whole-body wellness. 

The directives also encourage the integration of caries and cavity prevention with the prevention of other non-communicable diseases, rather than approaching oral health as a separate effort. But first, Pitts and Maybe note that the global dentist community must ensure “recognition of the severity of the issue at hand.”

Once policymakers recognize the importance of caries prevention, a cavity-free future will become much more possible — perhaps even likely. 

“The authors strongly believe that if a concerted, global effort is made, dental caries can be stopped in its tracks,” Pitts and Mayne write. “We call upon policymakers to consider these recommendations so that we might feasibly create a future free from cavities.”

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