Public Health

Since I am a Human Biology (pre-dental) student interested in all aspects of the dental field I chose to reflect on the public heath aspect of medical anthropology. CDC defined public health as the science of protecting and improving the health of families and communities through promotion of healthy lifestyles, research for disease, injury prevention, and detection and control of infectious disease.

Public health applies to my future in the dental field dealing with medical issues relating to protection of patients from oral infection and disease such as dental carries, gingivitis, periodontitis, ect. It is important to note that public health does not focus so much on treatment of those already infected. Rather this area of anthropology would be concerned with medical practitioners’ guidelines and advise toward maintaining good health and how to limit ones chance of acquiring specific medical conditions or illnesses.

I think an anthropological viewpoint would be very beneficial in dealing with a dentist’s clinical point of view in relation to protecting the health of an entire population. A dentist has the knowledge needed to guide patients toward good oral hygiene but public health is much more than that.

Lets say we are dealing with prevention of Periodontal Disease, which is what I chose to research, and construct my weebly site on ( Here an anthropologist could look at areas of the world more prone to the disease and then determine possible factors that could influence such a disease. Research would show that countries or populations in the world that have limited or no access to dental care would show higher signs of periodontal disease. This would prove to be true among more poverty prone populations (WHO). Anthropologists could also target populations such as America with known unhealthy diets, or places with higher numbers of tobacco smokers to be of those negatively effected by the disease which is something a dentist would unlikely have the resources to study. Anthropologists could then take a biological approach to the matter and find reason for prevalence of Periodontal Disease over a period of time. From that, society would have a better understanding of possible factors and likelihood of acquiring such a disease.


CDC Foundation. “What is Public Health?”. Accessed August 4, 2014.

World Health Organization. “Oral Health”. Last Modified April 2012.

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Melinda Zielinski says:

    Hey Justin! I also chose public health and I think it is awesome you’re planning on becoming a dentist. I am planning on attending nursing school eventually so it’s cool to see someone else going into a different aspect of the health field. I agree with your analysis that anthropologists are very useful to dentists as they can help identify areas that are more prone to certain dental issues as you stated. I also really like your example of America with unhealthy diets and smokers, which sugars and tobacco are obviously terrible for dental hygiene. One of dentist’s main jobs is to clean teeth and give advice on how to prolong good dental health and hygiene habits, which falls within the public health realm. As you said pertaining to periodontal disease, the team of a dentist and an anthropologist is vital in determining how to attack the disease. The dentist would focus on the biomedical aspects and the anthropologist could gather cultural, political, social, etc factors that could possibly influence the disease. The only thing I can think of that you didn’t mention is an anthropologist could also identify any stigmas (if there are any) of periodontal disease. They can then relay the stigma issues to the dentist in order to produce a system that could help eliminate/or work around the stigma so people can get treated. In return this promotes good health for the public health sector.

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