Unsolicited Narrative Review
Social oral epidemi(olog)2y where next: one small step or one giant leap?
Version of Record online: 14 JUL 2014
© 2014 The Authors. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.
Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology
Volume 42, Issue 6, pages 481–494, December 2014
How to Cite
Social oral epidemi(olog)2y where next: one small step or one giant leap?. Community Dent Oral Epidemiol 2014; 42: 481–494. © 2014 The Authors. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd., .
- Issue online: 25 NOV 2014
- Version of Record online: 14 JUL 2014
- Manuscript Accepted: 6 JUN 2014
- Manuscript Received: 14 JAN 2014
- dental public health;
- health inequalities;
- oral epidemiology;
- risk factor;
Since the early 1990s, there has been heated debate critically reflecting on social epidemiology. Yet, very little of this debate has reached oral epidemiology. This is no more noticeable than in the field of oral health inequalities. One of the significant achievements of social oral epidemiology has been the persistent documentation of social patterning of oral disease. Nevertheless, where social oral epidemiology has fallen down is going beyond description to explaining these patterns. Thinking how and in what way things happen, not just in relation to oral health inequalities but also more broadly, requires a more creative approach which links to scholarship outside of dentistry, including the work from critical epidemiologists to that within the social sciences. The aim of this review study is to provide a critical commentary on key aspects of more general epidemiological debates in order to inform and develop social oral epidemiology theory and methodology. In the first section, ‘Where are we now?’, six key debates are reflected upon: (i) analysis of variance versus analysis of causes, (ii) the fallacy of independent effects, (iii) black box thinking, (iv) theory and the understanding of mechanisms, (v) individualization of risk and (vi) the meaning of ‘social’. In the second section, ‘Where to next?’ we draw on a number of fundamental issues from within the social science literature in order to highlight possible channels of future inquiry. Our overriding goal throughout is to facilitate a critical engagement in order to improve understanding and generate knowledge in relation to population oral health.