Dental public health

3.1.4_Socioeconomic diagram

Dental public health can be defined as the “science and practice of preventing oral diseases, promoting oral health and improving the quality of life through the organised efforts of society”. This was described by Dower et al in 1994 and also used by Acheson in his 1998 independent inquiry into inequalities in health (external link) report.

The science of dental public health is concerned with understanding a population’s health problems, establishing the causes and effects of those problems and planning effective interventions.

Dental public health practice is concerned with promoting the health of the population and therefore focuses action at a community level.

The determinants of health

A range of factors determine health, or the lack of, from very individual drivers such as age and sex, through social and living circumstances to general socio-economic, cultural and environmental conditions.

It is the role of people working in dental public health to have an understanding of the factors that influence oral health and to work in partnership with organisations to improve oral health such as community health partnerships, councils, education departments and the voluntary sector.

The current challenges to dental public health in Scotland consist of high levels of dental decay, increasing levels of tooth erosion, increasing incidences of oral cancer and an increasing population of older people – who are more at risk of conditions such as periodontal disease.

The Childsmile programme looks in further detail at levels of dental decay in children.

Source: Dahlgren G and Whitehead M (1991) ‘Policies and strategies to promote social equity in health’. Stockholm, Institute for Futures Studies.