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Six million Portuguese missing at least one natural tooth

More than half of the Portuguese population is missing at least one natural tooth

Six out of ten people in Portugal are missing at least one natural tooth, and more than half do not replace lost teeth, according to the Oral Health Barometer 2023 released this Friday.

The data from the 8th edition of the Oral Health Barometer 2023, conducted by the Order of Dentists (OMD), reveal that only 41.1% of the 1,102 respondents aged 15 or older have a complete set of teeth, excluding wisdom teeth. The good news is that this figure represents a positive evolution compared to previous years.

According to the study, 22.8% of respondents do not have six or more teeth, the point at which chewing and oral health is believed to start being affected. Out of these, 18.2% have no kinds of false teeth to replace them, an increase of 1.8 percentage points (pp) compared to 2022, but a decrease of 5.6pp compared to 2018.

“Although about 59% lack at least one natural tooth, it is a significant decrease compared to the last barometer data, a decrease of 8.8 percentage points,” the barometer states. It also notes that 6.2% of respondents lack all teeth, a figure similar to 2022 (6.4%).

According to Miguel Pavão, the president of OMD, these numbers are “worrisome” and “demonstrate the urgency of implementing measures long presented by the Order, such as the creation of the denture voucher and the establishment of a special career in the National Health Service (SNS)” capable of attracting dentists and oral health professionals.

The barometer, released today at the OMD congress, reveals that 64.4% of Portuguese people go to the dentist at least once a year, a decrease compared to 2022, in contrast to the trend observed in recent years.

It also indicates that the number of Portuguese who never visit the dentist (10.3%) or only do so in emergency situations (30.8%) has increased by 2.4pp. Of those who lack six or more natural teeth, only 46.2% go for a check-up at least once a year, an increase of 0.3pp from 2022.

“Older individuals more often state never having been to the dentist. Among Portuguese aged 65 or older, 9.9% have never been,” the study says, emphasising that “generally, the lower the education, the less frequent the visits.”

Analysing by region, Greater Lisbon (10.3%) and the Central Coast (8.2%) are the areas where more people say they have never been  to the dentist, in contrast to Greater Porto (0.9%), Northern Coast (0.5%), and Madeira (0%).

As for children under six who have never been to the dentist, the percentage decreased for the second consecutive year. In 2021, it was 73.4%, in 2022 it dropped to 65.2%, and this year it decreased to 53.5%.

The percentage of respondents who claim not to need to go to the dentist has risen to 71.3% (an increase of 21.1pp from 2022), returning to values similar to those of the 2021 edition. Meanwhile, the number of those who say they cannot afford a consultation (24.4%) decreased by 5.1 percentage points.

According to the barometer, only 2% of the population access a dental appointment through the National Health Service or the Dentist Voucher. The vast majority (98%) turn to the private sector, via insurance and health plans or health subsystems.

“One of the reasons that help explain this difference is that 66.8% of the population is unaware that the SNS provides dental services, a value that worsened considerably compared to the 55.9% in 2022,” the OMD said.

Miguel Pavão said in the statement that “dentistry has been presented as a flagship in the health sector, but the truth is that there is no strategy for oral health.”

“All one must do is see that the amount allocated in the State Budget for Oral Health is €30 million out of a total of €15 billion,” he said.

Regarding oral health habits, the barometer found that 78.8% claim to brush their teeth at least twice a day, an increase of 5.7pp from 2022.

Source: LUSA