Tooth decay and epidemiological thinking in a time of urban riots

A: It’s sweet teeth, pure and simple.  Tooth decay is a problem among youth who give in to temptation to have sweets in their mouth.  To look elsewhere for explanations is to condone their lack of self-control and responsibility for their own self-destructive actions.

B: I agree that no-one should defend letting one’s sweet tooth dictate behavior.  But, if we want to reduce tooth decay we need to look at the conditions in places where tooth decay is high, conditions such as low numbers of dentists, low income, advertisements for sweets that show healthy people with smiles and shiny teeth, and so on.  If we address these conditions, we can reduce tooth decay even if the proportion of people with sweet teeth stays unchanged.

A: So, let us be clear: You do not condemn sweet teeth?

C: Let me step in here.  I am quite prepared to state that I do not condemn sweet teeth.  In poor places where there’s little pleasure and plenty of media portrayals of well-off people enjoying sweets, why shouldn’t these youth also have sweets and be helped if they get tooth decay?  In fact, let me ask you a question: Are you condoning unequal access to dental health, jobs flowing overseas, and seductive advertizing aimed at the poor?

A: Anyone who condones sweet teeth is someone whose questions I do not have to answer.

B: Hold on.  I am simply interested in improving public health, which, in this case, means reducing tooth decay.  If subsidized dental care helped in the past, let’s not rule out restoring that.  Ditto for compulsory dental health education in schools (though do we have evidence that education aimed at individual behavior worked?).  And so on.

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One thought on “Tooth decay and epidemiological thinking in a time of urban riots

  1. Pingback: Unemployment: Further exploration of epidemiological thinking in public discourse « Intersecting Processes

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