Global oral health commission has first meeting in London

Oral health experts from around the world will convene in London today and tomorrow for the first meeting of the Lancet Commission on Global Oral Health, which is co-chaired by UCL’s Professor Richard Watt and partly funded by the BRC’s Oral Health and Diseases theme.

The Commission aims to promote access to oral health care and tackle oral health inequalities globally. It follows publication in 2019 of the Lancet Oral Health Series in which researchers said dentistry was in a state of crisis – with oral disease affecting more than 3.5 billion people around the world despite being largely preventable.

In that series of papers, researchers said dentistry has historically been too reactive – with dentists intervening once disease has occurred – rather than focussed on prevention.

They said this is not the fault of individual dentists who are committed to patient care, but said that upstream, population-wide measures such as sugar taxes are now needed.

At its first meeting, the 27 researchers, policy makers and clinicians who make up the Commission will identify and agree its main strategic priorities and core themes. A key focus is expected to be on improving dentistry in low and middle income countries, where dentistry is often unavailable or unaffordable for most people.

The Commission will have representation from 15 countries – many of them low and middle income – and will run for the next 2 years.

Professor Watt, who is a member of the BRC’s Oral Health and Diseases theme board, said: “There is an urgent need to improve oral health around the world and to reduce inequalities both within and between countries, so our Lancet Commission is timely. Oral diseases – such as tooth decay and gum disease – are among the most common diseases worldwide but can be some of the simplest to prevent. We will be looking at where policymakers and others around the world can step in and act.”