Oral health among refugees in Europe

Added March 9, 2022

Citation: Zinah E, Al-Ibrahim HM. Oral health problems facing refugees in Europe: a scoping review. BMC Public Health. 2021;21:1207.

Language: Abstract and full text available in EN.

Free to view: Yes.

Funding sources: The authors reported that there were no sources of funding for this review.

What is this? Oral diseases are among the most prevalent diseases globally. Oral health is an important issue for refugees and asylum seekers, who also face additional barriers to care. Information on how common oral diseases are in this population in Europe, what causes these diseases and how to treat them might be helpful to policy makers, practitioners and the public.

In this scoping review, the authors searched for studies of the oral health of the refugees and asylum seekers in Europe. They restricted their searches to articles published in English between 1995 and 2020. They included 7 quantitative and 5 qualitative studies, which were from Bosnia (1 study), Finland (1), Germany (5), Italy (1), Norway (1), Spain (1), Sweden (1) and the UK (1).

What was found: Oral diseases were more common among refugees than the general population of their host countries, with dental decay and periodontal diseases being the most frequent conditions assessed by studies included in the review.

Refugees faces challenges in accessing oral healthcare services due to language and financial barriers and limited access to oral health services was also reported in refugee camps.

Poverty and sugary diets were significant contributors to poor oral health among refugees.

Providing information on oral health and diet in the refugees’ language led to improvements in oral health and lower sugar consumption.

Implications: The authors of the review stated that better knowledge and professional assessment of dental treatment is needed to support refugees and asylum seekers and called for oral health promotion campaigns about the value of preventative care. They also noted the need for more studies on oral health for refugees and asylum seekers in Europe and particularly for those who are staying in camps.

Other considerations: The authors of the review discuss their findings in the context of place of residence, socioeconomic status and personal characteristics associated with discrimination (refugees and asylum seekers).


This summary was prepared by Tuba Yavuz, edited by Emma Thompson and finalized by Mike Clarke.

Disclaimer: This summary has been written by staff and volunteers of Evidence Aid in order to make the content of the original document accessible to decision makers who are searching for the available evidence on the health of refugees and asylum seekers but may not have the time, initially, to read the original report in full. This summary is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians, other health workers, professional associations, guideline developers, or national governments and international agencies. If readers of this summary think that the evidence that is presented within it is relevant to their decision-making they should refer to the content and details of the original article, and the advice and guidelines offered by other sources of expertise, before making decisions. Evidence Aid cannot be held responsible for any decisions made about the health of refugees and asylum seekers on the basis of this summary alone. The text can be shared and re-used without charge, citing Evidence Aid as the source and noting the date on which you took the text.