Purpose: This report intends to review the global burden of oral disease among older people and to examine their
oral health needs. The evidence on the inter-relationships between poor oral health conditions of older people, general
health and quality of life is highlighted. Finally, WHO strategies to improve oral health of older people are reviewed.
Methods: The information relevant to this review was extracted from the WHO Global Oral Health Data Bank, the
PubMed database, and the Cochrane Library. Surveys were carried out according to the criteria recommended by
the WHO epidemiological manual Oral Health Surveys – Basic Methods. In addition, global data were sought on
coverage of oral health care among older people. Finally, WHO policy documents on health care for aged people
were gathered through the WHO website.
Results: Across the globe, many older people suffer from oral pain or discomfort. Poor oral health during old age is
mostly manifest in high caries experience, high prevalence rates of advanced periodontal disease, severe tooth
loss, dry mouth, and oral pre-cancer/cancer. In both developing and developed countries, the burden of disease is
particularly high among underprivileged and disadvantaged older people. In numerous countries, high proportions
of the aged population are not covered by primary oral health care; this is mainly the case in low and middle income
countries due to a critical shortage of dentists.
Conclusions: In 2015, the WHO published the World Report on Ageing and Health, which outlines a framework for
action to foster healthy ageing. The policies are highly relevant to the improvement of oral health. Transformation
of oral health systems away from a disease-based curative model and towards disease prevention, as well as the
provision of older-person-centred integrated care are required. Moreover, wide-ranging public health action on ageing
is urgently needed.