Study calls on oral care players to help developing countries

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Fluoride therapy Dental caries

A new report has highlighted the fact that fluoride toothpaste is
prohibitively expensive in developing countries and calls on
global oral care players to implement pricing strategies
and local manufacturing to appease the situation.

The study, published in the journal Globalization and Health, suggests that populations in developing countries have the least access to affordable toothpaste. According to the study, fluoride, which is the most widely used means of preventing tooth decay, is currently only available to 12.5 per cent of the world's population, which is mainly put down to cost. Collective research programme​ The study was written by a collective research team, which includes scientists from the School of Public Health and Health Services at the George Washington University, the World Health Organization and the Radboud University Medical Centre in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, and compared the relative affordability of fluoride toothpaste in 48 countries. To assess the cost of fluoride toothpaste questionnaires were sent by the research team to dental associations, non-government oral health organisations and individuals around the world. Assessing the questionnaire results according to the affordability of toothpaste relative to household incomes, the study showed that as the per capita income decreased, the proportion of income needed to purchase a year's supply of fluoride toothpaste increased, hitting the poorest countries hardest. Affordability of fluoride toothpaste​ As a result of the study findings, the authors state that more should be done to improve the affordability of fluoride toothpaste in developing and poorer nations. They suggest that making fluoride toothpaste exempt from taxation, encouraging the local manufacture of fluoride toothpaste and persuading international oral care manufacturers to implement different global price structures could help individuals in poorer countries. "Steps should be taken to make fluoride toothpaste more affordable and more accessible,"​ said Ann Goldman, of the School of Public Health and Health Services. Fluoride as an essential​ Fluoride is produced from fluorine after it is dissolved in water and can be used in dental products as well as fluoride therapy to help strengthen tooth enamel and fight decay that can lead to problems such as cavities. Commonly, toothpaste will contain around 1mg per gram of toothpaste as an active ingredient. This is because excessive fluoride exposure can lead to toxicity, but likewise it is also one of the most expensive ingredients in the formula. However, according to the US-based Center for Disease Control, for every $1 spent on fluoride treatment, this saves approximately $75 on dentist bills. Despite this fact, availability and affordability of fluoride toothpaste remains more limited in less wealthier countries, with consumers living in the poorest of nations being the least likely to afford it. Diet compounds the problem ​ This problem is compounded by the fact that globalization has led to a more westernized diet, high in carbohydrates and refined sugars, which the study states has led to a prevalence of tooth decay in developing countries. This problem becomes more acute because the cost and relative unavailability of dental care in poorer countries means that tooth decay often goes untreated.

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