Time to act for better oral health in Europe

Oral health is a determinant factor for quality of life, essential for well-being, and an integral part of general health. In the EU, the socio-economic burden of oral diseases is considerable: they affect the majority of school-aged children and adults and account for 5% of public health spending. Costs of traditional curative treatment have risen from €54bn in 2000 to €79bn in 2012 and are expected to rise up to €93bn by 2020.

Treatment expenditure exceeds that for other diseases, including cancer, heart disease, stroke and dementia. This is disturbing, given that much of the oral disease burden is preventable.

It’s all about prevention

Oral diseases are easily preventable by healthy diet, regular dental check-ups and routine personal oral hygiene practices, including frequent dental check-ups, the use of fluoride containing toothpaste and mouthwashes, interdental cleaning, chewing sugar-free chewing gum when on the move. Frequent exposure to fluoride, regular brushing, a healthy diet and routine oral care all contribute to improved oral health outcomes and a reduction in oral health inequalities.

The burden of oral disease

Oral disease affects all age groups

  • Tooth decay is the most prevalent of all diseases
  • Only 41% of adults claim to have all of their natural teeth

And are associated with a high cost of care

  • 4th most expensive disease area to treat
  • Accounts for 5-10% of public healthcare spending 
  • Estimated 79 billion euros spent annually in the EU on oral care


Dental caries

Dental caries is a disease of the hard tissues of the teeth caused by the interactions over time between micro-organisms found in dental plaque and dietary fermentable carbohydrates (principally sugars, such as sucrose). Dental decay is easily preventable, but is nonetheless one of the most common chronic diseases.

Dental caries affect the majority of school-aged children in Europe and adults.

Oral cancer

Oral cancers refer to cancers of the lip, tongue, gum, mouth and organs around the mouth and neck.

It is the 8th most common cancer worldwide. In the EU, lip and oral cavity cancer is the 12th most common cancer in men. In 2008, there were approximately 132.000 cases of head and neck cancer across Europe, resulting in 62.800 deaths.

Oral cancer kills more people than cervical cancer and testicular cancer combined.

Periodontal (gum) diseases

Gum diseases are caused by the inflammation of the gums and bones that support and anchor teeth. When severe, the bony support for teeth is extensively compromised causing otherwise healthy teeth to be lost. Plaque deposits on the gum margins of teeth, is the primary factor that causes gum disease. Other factors that increase susceptibility include age, tobacco, stress, genetic disorders and local factors, such as crowded teeth.

Over 50% of the European population suffer from some form of periodontitis and over 10% have severe disease, with prevalence increasing to 70-85% of the population aged 60-65 years of age. Periodontal health may be deteriorating within the EU population, due to a larger number of people retaining some of their teeth into old age, and an increase in the prevalence of diabetes.

Oral diseases are linked to other diseases

A range of health conditions are associated with oral disease. Poorly controlled diabetes is a well-established risk factor for developing periodontal breakdown and recent research shows how chronic gum diseases can increase diabetic complications. Gum diseases are also associated with rheumatoid arthritis, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and coronary heart disease.