Oral health is a standard of health of the oral and related tissues, which enables an individual to
eat, speak, and socialise in the absence of active disease, discomfort, dysfunction or
embarrassment and which contributes to general well being. HVO’s oral health programs have
been designed to foster good oral health.
One of the biggest difficulties in oral health is the lack of trained oral health professionals in
those areas where they are most needed; about 80 percent of the global oral health work force is
concentrated in those countries with roughly 20 percent of the global burden of oral diseases.
Conversely the oral health of 80 percent of the world’s population is cared for by only 20 percent
of the world’s oral health workforce.
Poor oral health and its associated pain have a direct impact on productivity and hence the
incomes of individuals, families and communities. Poor oral health impacts the ability of
children to concentrate in school and can severely limit the day-to-day activities of adults. A
recent survey of 12-year-olds, carried out in the Lao PDR, for example, found that 41 percent
had had difficulty in eating within the past 3 months and that 18 percent had had difficulty in
concentrating on schoolwork.
The World Health Assembly (the governing body of the World Health Organization) in May
2007, concluded that oral diseases, “such as dental caries (decay), periodontal disease (gum
disease), tooth loss, oral mucosal lesions, oro-pharyngeal cancers, oral manifestations of
HIV/AIDS, necrotizing ulcerative stomatitis (noma), and oro-dental trauma, are serious publichealth
Dental caries (decay) is one of the most common chronic diseases in children worldwide. Oral
diseases have been judged to be the fourth most expensive disease group to treat on a global
scale. Yet there are relatively inexpensive, cost-effective and simple measures to treat and
There are three ways in which the HVO oral health volunteer program is addressing these issues:
First, by providing access to dental care in sites such as St. Lucia. Second, by teaching
inexpensive, cost effective and simple measures to dental students in dental schools, such as in
Cambodia, and third, by teaching public health dentists to develop public health policies and
programmes to prevent oral diseases and to evaluate and manage these programmes effectively
and efficiently in an accountable manner. These latter programmes are principally in Vietnam,
Cambodia and in the Lao PDR.