Despite know ways to treat and prevent it, more than 2.4 billion people around the world have untreated tooth decay says a new report. Scientists behind the report add that their analysis show the problem to be relevant to both children and adults.
Tooth decay occurs when acids in the mouth dissolve the outer layers of teeth. It is also known as dental decay or dental caries. The disease causes severe pain, infections, days off work and problems with childhood growth. If not treated dental decay can lead to problems such as a cavities, gum disease or abscesses.
Prof Wagner Marcenes of Queen Mary University of London led an international team of scientists analyzing 378 studies involving some 4.7 million people between 1990 and 2010.
Their global survey suggests 2.4 billion people have untreated tooth decay in their permanent teeth and some 621 million have untreated decay in milk teeth.
According to the data, a third of the population in the UK had untreated dental decay in 2010. In Lithuania, one of the hardest-hit countries, the proportion was more than double, at 68 percent.
Their work predicts more than 190m new cases of dental decay every year. Prof Wagner says the main reason behind this is diet - eating and drinking high amounts of sugary foods and drinks and frequent snacking.
"Tooth decay is a significant economic burden. And if left untreated, it leads to poor productivity at work and absenteeism in adults, and poor school attendance and performance in children."