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Oral health is an increasingly important part of overall health. According to a World Health Organization oral health fact sheet, 60 to 90 percent of school children worldwide and nearly 100 percent of adults have dental cavities. Many cannot access treatment or lack dental insurance. Severe periodontal (gum) disease, which may result in tooth loss, is found in 15 to 20 percent of adults 35 to 44 years old. Globally, about 30 percent of people 65 to 74 years old have no natural teeth, suggesting that the need for treatment and oral health education will increase as populations age.
Oral health issues include access to dental care, rural fluoride use, oral side effects of tobacco use, oral hygiene education, nutrition, and treatment of children with cleft palates and noma. Oral global health also has varied implications for numerous diseases and cancers. A range of oral issues are also often early indicators of HIV infection. Oral manifestations of some diseases can be life-saving if diagnosed and treated appropriately.
At NIH, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) leads oral, dental and craniofacial health research and research training efforts.
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