Making science and doing justice: The need to reframe research on racial inequities in oral health [Special issue of Community Dental Health, to be disseminated at the ‘Racism and oral health inequities’ International Association for Dental Resea

João L Bastos Helena M Constante Lisa M Jamieson

Making science and doing justice: The need to reframe research on racial inequities in oral health [Special issue of Community Dental Health, to be disseminated at the ‘Racism and oral health inequities’ International Association for Dental Resea

Authors: João L Bastos Helena M Constante Lisa M Jamieson
doi: 10.1922/CDH_IADRBastos06

Abstract

This article combines a review of dental studies on race with sociological insights into systemic racism to advance a counter-narrative on the root causes of racial oral health inequities. Taking racism as a form of oppression that cuts across institutional, cultural, and behavioral dimensions of social life, we ask: How pervasive are racial inequities in the occurrence of adverse oral health outcomes? What is the direction and magnitude of racial inequities in oral health? Does the inequitable distribution of negative outcomes persist over time? How can sociological frameworks on systemic racism inform initiatives to effectively reduce racial oral health inequities? The first three questions are addressed by reviewing dental studies conducted in the past few years around the globe. The fourth question is addressed by framing racial oral health inequities around sociological scholarship on racism as a systemic feature of contemporary societies. The paper concludes with a set of practical recommendations on how to eliminate racial oral health inequities, which include engaging with a strong anti-racist narrative and actively dismantling the race discrimination system. Amid the few attempts at moving the field toward improved racial justice, this paper should be followed by research on interventions against racial oral health inequities, including the conditions under which they succeed. Keywords: Oral health; health status disparities; race relations; racism; health policy.

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