The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Oral Health Programme’s Ending Childhood Dental Caries aims to curb the burden of early childhood caries (ECC), which affects children under the age of 6, with recommendations on prevention and control. The FDI World Dental Federation has announced its support of the manual.
Tooth decay is the single most prevalent noncommunicable disease in the world, FDI says. According to the 2017 Global Burden of Disease Study, more than 530 million children globally have dental caries in their primary teeth. ECC prevalence also is increasing rapidly in low- and middle-income countries. Access to dental care remains inequitable in many countries as well.
ECC can be prevented and controlled by changing personal behaviors and habits, working with families and caregivers, and finding public health solutions such as building health policies, creating supportive environments, and shifting health services toward universal health coverage, FDI says. Primary care teams including community health workers are key to successful ECC treatment and prevention programs, FDI adds.
Ending Childhood Dental Caries is based on evidence from systematic reviews and WHO recommendations, especially on nutrition (including breastfeeding) and primary care worker programs. It is intended to inform and support policymakers, chief dental officers, and public health administrators in the development and implementation of plans for ECC prevention and control using the primary healthcare approach.
The manual also may be used in training activities to help primary care teams:
- Understand ECC as a public health problem
- Recognize the essential risk factors for ECC, which include non-exclusive breastfeeding, free sugars consumption, and inadequate exposure to fluoride to prevent dental caries
- Identify opportunities to prevent ECC and combat its causes
Despite improvements in oral disease prevention and treatment, problems persist, FDI says. Oral diseases can cause pain, anxiety, functional limitation, and social handicap through tooth loss. Global action to prevent dental caries is urgently needed from national leaders and the international public health community, FDI says.