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LETTER TO EDITOR
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 241-242

Public healther: The true role of public health dentist


Department of Public Health Dentistry, Amrita School of Dentistry, Kochi, Kerala, India

Date of Web Publication10-Jun-2016

Correspondence Address:
Janakiram Chandrashekar
Department of Public Health Dentistry, Amrita School of Dentistry, Kochi, Kerala
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/2319-5932.183810

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How to cite this article:
Chandrashekar J, Vinita S, Joe J. Public healther: The true role of public health dentist. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent 2016;14:241-2

How to cite this URL:
Chandrashekar J, Vinita S, Joe J. Public healther: The true role of public health dentist. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent [serial online] 2016 [cited 2019 Aug 25];14:241-2. Available from: http://www.jiaphd.org/text.asp?2016/14/2/241/183810



The general apathy toward oral health in our public health system stems from the skewed national policies that are framed without consulting dental health experts, who are in a better position to put forth concrete policies based on a scientific rationale and evaluation of oral health statistics. The presence of dental public health personnel in oral health policy-making will ensure that oral health is given the due importance it deserves.

In India, the role of the public health dentist is curtailed to that of case finding or aligns to teaching profession. In this process, focus is shifted from the larger goal of advocacy for oral health. This can largely be attributed to the deficiencies in the current competencies of public health dentist which is limited to the areas of health needs assessment, data collection, and analysis. Hence, there is a need to broaden the subject spectrum from being merely assessment oriented. This will ensure that the public health dentist has not only assessment skills but also expertise in advocacy and policy-making which are the three-core functions of any public health personnel.

An amalgamation of these three-core areas to the present day curriculum as followed in some of the developed nations can provide a strong foundation for public health professionals. The curriculum existent in the United States of America shows that a specialist in dental public health has sufficient training to ensure understanding and the practical application of concepts involved in the planning, formulation, implementation, operation, and evaluation of dental public health programs and also an understanding of the processes through which health policies are developed and regulated. This training enables him to manage oral health programs and assume a leadership role in public health. At the end of this training, the dental public health professional acquires technical skills in a wide array of areas encompassing planning, marketing, communications, human resource management, financial management, advocacy building, management of information, evaluation, quality assurance, and risk management. Hence, a complete and more extensive program of this nature prepares the public health dentist to be able to deliver his duties better and to the fullest of his abilities.[1]

It is time to look beyond the concept of dental public health and promote a new league of public health dentists whom we would like to term as “public healthers” [Figure 1]. A public healther should be lobbying for health activities to bring about changes in policies governing health and to create evidence by research methods to validate the lobbying. Emulating the above approach to public health dentistry will bring about a promising change in healthcare scenario in India and change the perception of policymakers toward oral health. Integrating oral health into strategies for promoting general health will in turn permit health planners to work toward enhancing both general and oral health.
Figure 1: The figure highlights the current scenario of public health dentistry in India (figurative floor mopper), limitations of the curriculum and the resultant lacuna of opportunities. Incorporating advocacy and policy-making skills enable to play the vital role of tap turners

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We have over 928 public health dentists in the country,[2] which reinforces the fact that we have all the resources, in terms of manpower, human capital, and technology for a better tomorrow. There is every potential for improvement in oral health. The challenge lies in channeling all the available resources in the right direction to ensure healthy smiles for all. The compartmentalization that has existed from time immemorial in viewing oral health separate from general health must cease to exist.

A curriculum as suggested here not only holds a promising change for the country's health statistics but also holds tremendous potential for the public health dentist. We believe that this change will enable a public health dentist to be in capacity to change the perception of health planners in the country. The other side of this change is the sea of opportunities ahead of the public health dentist. Undergoing training in the core areas of public health will facilitate these professional to take up positions as epidemiologist, health managers, health specialists, health economists, health educationists, health promotion specialist, and many more. They may have opportunities in international and nongovernmental institutions as well.[3]

Seeing equity in health is every public health professional's motto. It is up to the fraternity and the public health dentists, in particular, to see how they would like to contribute toward the oral health of the Indian population. A systematic change in the curriculum could enable the public health dentist to contribute to public health in a larger way. It is time to stop searching for public health in dentistry instead take up the role of a public healther – the true role of a public health dentist.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

 
  References Top

1.
Dental Public Health | UCSF Dentistry. Available from: http://www.dentistry.ucsf.edu/admissions/postgraduate-programs/dental-public-health. [Last cited on 2015 Sep 15].  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Indian Association of Public Health Dentistry. Available from: http://www.iaphd.org/about.php. [Last cited on 2015 Sep 16].  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Goel S, Verma H. Scope of dentists in public health. Internet J Health 2008;9:1-2.  Back to cited text no. 3
    


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