Despite impressive worldwide improvements in oral health, inequalities in oral health status among and within countries remain a daunting public health challenge. Oral health inequalities arise from a complex web of health determinants, including social, behavioral, economic, genetic, environmental, and health system factors. Eliminating these inequalities cannot be accomplished in isolation of oral health from overall health, or without recognizing that oral health is influenced at multiple individual, family, community, and health systems levels. For several reasons, this is an opportune time for global efforts targeted at reducing oral health inequalities. Global health is increasingly viewed not just as a humanitarian obligation, but also as a vehicle for health diplomacy and part of the broader mission to reduce poverty, build stronger economies, and strengthen global security. Despite the global economic recession, there are trends that portend well for support of global health efforts: increased globalization of research and development, growing investment from private philanthropy, an absolute growth of spending in research and innovation, and an enhanced interest in global health among young people. More systematic and far-reaching efforts will be required to address oral health inequalities through the engagement of oral health funders and sponsors of research, with partners from multiple public and private sectors. The oral health community must be “at the table” with other health disciplines and create opportunities for eliminating inequalities through collaborations that can harness both the intellectual and financial resources of multiple sectors and institutions.
Keywords: global, oral health, inequalities, disparities, research, funding