Dental and Oral Diseases in Developing Nations
Many people in developing countries have never had the privilege of seeing a dentist. Dental help is almost non-existent in much of Africa, and in the other countries Mercy Ships visits, it is unaffordable for the majority of the population. Poor oral hygiene is a risk factor for diseases and can even lead to death.
The most common oral diseases are dental cavities and periodontal (gum) disease, affecting all people regardless of socioeconomic status. In developing countries, changing living conditions due to urbanisation and the adoption of western lifestyles, such as sugar-rich diets, are leading to higher incidence of dental cavities. This situation is further exacerbated by limited access to dental care in low-resource settings. As a result, thousands of people suffer from dental pain for weeks or months on end.
Without proper and timely treatment, some oral infections can even be lethal. Poor oral health can contribute to other diseases such as noma or osteonecrosis (rotten decay) of the jaw. Without treatment, noma results in death in 70-90% of cases.
Those most affected by dental disease and lack of care are the most vulnerable groups: young children, elderly, and the poorest individuals. For children, tooth decay is a particular concern as it impacts childhood nutrition, growth, and weight gain.