Billions of people are in discomfort due to untreated dental problems, according to a new report.
Professor Wagner Marcenes of Queen Mary, University of London, claims the global population is currently facing an increasing number of serious issues in oral health.
He led an international research team investigating oral health as part of the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2010 study, revealing that oral conditions affect as many as 3.9 billion people worldwide.
This means that over half of the total population experiences some kind of oral problem, more recently shifting from severe tooth loss towards severe periodontitis and untreated caries.
Professor Marcenes referred to untreated oral health conditions that cause toothache and prevent people from eating and sleeping properly as a "disability".
He also pointed out that the total does not include small cavities or mild gum diseases, heightening the severity of the situation.
Untreated tooth decay or cavities in permanent teeth - also known as dental caries - was the most common of all 291 major diseases and injuries assessed by the study, affecting 35% of the world population.
The global burden of oral diseases, meanwhile, increased 20% between 1990 and 2010, although a reduction of 0.5% was observed for all conditions together.
Oral conditions accounted for an average health loss of 224 years per 100,000 people (years lived with disability or YLDs) - more than 25 out of 28 categories of cancer assessed in the GBD 2010 study.
Copyright Press Association 2013