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 West Africa, and in the other countries Mercy Ships visits, it is unaffordable for the majority of the population

Oral diseases
The most common oral diseases are dental cavities and periodontal (gum) disease. Thousands of people suffer from dental pain for weeks or months on end, sometimes even years, because of the lack of available dental care. In developing countries, changing living conditions due to urbanisation and the adoption of western lifestyles are leading to a higher incidence of dental cavities. Most elderly people in developing countries have few or no teeth left. Although the poor are more vulnerable to this and other problems, oral health issues affect elderly people at every level of society. Low awareness, lack of access to oral health services and the misconception that older people will not benefit from health education and preventive measures such as fluoridation, conspire to deprive the elderly of vital care.

Statistics (source: WHO)

  • 60-90% of school children worldwide have dental cavities.
  • Severe periodontal (gum) disease, which may result in tooth loss, is found in 5-20% of middle-aged adults; the rate varies across geographical regions.
  • 40-50% of people who are HIV-positive have oral fungal, bacterial or viral infections, which often occur early in the course of HIV infection.
  • Oral disease is the fourth most expensive ailment to treat in most industrialised countries

Transformational health care through Oral Care Programmes

Bringing Hope and Healing
Mercy Ships aims to prevent and reduce the effects of a lack of oral health care by providing dental treatment and dental hygiene education and training. Mercy Ships uses hospital ships complemented by mobile dental clinics to deliver free specialised health care to the world’s forgotten poor.

Extractions & Procedures
Dental service is almost non-existent in many of the countries Mercy Ships visits. Mercy Ships conducts free mobile dental clinics, providing relief from infected or rotting teeth, performing extractions and inserting fillings.

Oral Hygiene Education
Poor oral hygiene and untreated tooth decay can lead to much more serious conditions such as noma. Mercy Ships dental teams work to improve oral health in developing countries through dental hygiene education and the training of local personnel.

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