MEPs issue call for EU level action to improve oral health

Despite significant gains in tackling oral health, the issue still requires attention from EU policymakers, say Claudiu Ciprian Tanasescu and Karin Kadenbach.

As Europe marks world oral health day 2014, we are pleased to report that another step has been taken to confront one of the most important yet preventable health challenges that continues to impact the quality of life for millions of EU citizens.

At a roundtable event held at the European parliament on 18 March, the platform for better oral health in Europe issued the preliminary results of the first European oral health report card.

Building on answers received from 25 EU member states to a comprehensive questionnaire, the report card assesses oral health and oral disease prevention in Europe, and reveals the patchy picture of the current status of oral health prevention policies across Europe.

The report card features indicators aimed at measuring the progress achieved over time in member states. It emerged that the quality of data and the methodology applied to assessing the status-quo of oral health indicators varies greatly across European countries.

This has been developed by the platform, a joint initiative of the association for dental education in Europe, the council of European chief dental officers, the European association of dental public health, the European division of the international dental health foundation, GlaxoSmithKline and the Wrigley oral healthcare programs.

In 2013, the platform developed and launched its 2020 targets in order to highlight three key areas where oral health policy improvement is needed urgently. These are data collection systems, preventive policies and education and awareness.

There is significant work to be done in the member states and in particular at EU level to improve the governance of preventive practices of oral disease, the role oral health professionals play, and education and awareness practices. Policy makers both at national and EU level must do more to support the on-going work of the platform and help towards making better oral health in Europe a reality. Unless we take effective action, the burden of oral diseases in Europe is bound to increase from the current €80bn yearly to €93bn by 2020.

At the roundtable event, the platform unveiled the European report card following the publication of a state of oral health report in September 2012, which indicated that despite progress in the prevention of tooth decay in Europe, more work is needed to promote oral health awareness, to tackle oral health inequalities, and to address common risk factors.

In response to this situation, platform members emphasised the importance of promoting oral health awareness, tackling oral health inequalities and addressing common risk factors.

Announcing the launch of the report card, professor Kenneth Eaton, chair of the platform, said, "The resulting report card should be the basis of increased efforts in the member states and in particular at EU level to improve oral health prevention policies. The reported preliminary findings on the status-quo of the oral health indicators defined by the platform show great variability in quality of data and the methodology applied and reinforce the results published in the state of oral health in Europe 2012".

"Given the great variety in quality of governance of preventive practices or oral disease, the role of oral health professionals and education and awareness, the effectiveness of the current oral healthcare systems in many EU member states for oral health promotion is questionable", he continued.