I chose to further investigate public health because I aspire to go into dentistry after I graduate. I’ve always known that I wanted to have a profession that would allow me to help other people and I think dentistry will allow me to do that. Of course, dentists perform a lot of repair work to already damaged teeth, but I think it is equally important for dentists to try to educate the public to try to prevent damage and decay. The public health area of applied anthropology would hopefully allow me to help a broader range of people, rather than only individuals. There are a lot of preventative measures that are effective in preventing tooth damage, but I think there needs to be more of an effort to educate the public on proper teeth care.
In the future, I, and most dentists, would be an example of a provider who is working in the dental area of healthcare, but is not an anthropologist. When it comes to dentistry, taking an anthropological viewpoint would be useful because it would allow dentists to better understand their patients and their backgrounds. Providing education to the public about tooth care is important, but it is also important for dentists to consider their audience and their cultural practices. I think that it is important to educate children, so it is important to consider how they view and experience illness in order to come up with an effective treatment program. Also, an anthropological viewpoint is important for dental public health because often factors such as, socioeconomic class, income, wealth, and education are crucial in poor oral hygiene and in developing dental decay. There is a link between poor oral health and low socioeconomic status so that is important for dentists to consider. Programs that provide education about proper teeth care need to be accessible to people from all social statuses. An anthropological viewpoint would also allow dentists working in the public health area to better understand how cultural practices influence oral health. In North America, cultural practices like smoking, chewing tobacco, and consuming alcohol and sugary food/drink all contribute to the development of poor oral health.
In the Tribal Jazzman video he mentions how developed countries try to help impoverished countries, but that it is often counterproductive because we don’t fully understand their background. He describes a situation in which he builds a shower for a family that he stayed with in a squatter settlement because they had expressed their desire for one, but when he comes back a couple months later he finds that it has been completely dismantled for the resources. He makes the valid point that what he thought the family needed, was not actually what they needed in reality. I think this lesson can also be applied to the public health area of dentistry, because I think dentists can often aspire to do too much, when what the patient needs might be much more simple or basic. As a dentist, it is important to consider the patients needs and the reality of the situation, even if it requires treating oral health from a different perspective than I would naturally assume.
“Medical Antrhopology” –Tribal Jazzman Scholar, Episode #26,” YouTube, 7:55, posted by “TribalJazzman,” Feb. 18, 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjDPwF9uV58.