Although the oral cavity constitutes only one percent of the body area overall, about five percent of all injuries occur in it (Andersson, 2013). The most widespread disorders in this regard are dental caries and periodontal disease. They affect about 60 to 90 percent of school-age children and about 5 to 20 percent of grownups (Veiga & Coelho, 2015). Since these disorders are recognized as a major problem of public health, epidemiology is particularly important to them. Detecting and monitoring their distribution can provide new treatment solutions (Veiga & Coelho, 2015). This is only one example of epidemiology relevance in dental science. To identify its advantages, it is necessary to define what dental epidemiology is about and why it is important, which will reveal the meaning of it to a dentistry practitioner.
First of all, dental epidemiology is not only a field of knowledge, but also an approach to dentistry. According to Epidemiologic Concepts (n.d.), oral epidemiology is the “study of distribution and determinants of oral health-related states or events in specified populations, and the application of this study to control of oral health problems” (p. 3). Dental epidemiology is the only branch of epidemiology, the area of which is defined by a particular body part (Epidemiologic Concepts, n.d.). Oral epidemiology is critical to evidence-based practice in dentistry.
As the study of disease conditions’ patterns, epidemiology is important to every branch of medicine. It helps “identify the causes of diseases / health issues and apply those findings to prevent or correct those pathologies, obtaining health gains” (Veiga & Coelho, 2015, p. 24). Dental epidemiology, in particular, analyzes distributions and causes of dental diseases, which is crucial for the development of preventive strategies as well as treatment practices. According to Veiga and Coelho (2015), in the area of dentistry, epidemiology is rapidly developing, deepening “discussions about oral pathologies and the association with bio-psychosocial factors” (p. 21). The contribution of epidemiology to medical knowledge and practices is remarkable.
A person planning to pursue a career in dentistry should recognize the value of dental epidemiology. As an international dentist, I am interested in learning more about present-day trends and achievement in dentistry, including relevant epidemiological studies. After reviewing the literature on the essence and importance of dental epidemiology, I realize the significance of its application to public health. For example, the use of dental epidemiology knowledge can help improve organization in both emergency and preventive dental care, lower its cost, and generally contribute to the development of a better dental care system in the future (Andersson, 2013). Focusing on the process of a disease in populations, epidemiologic knowledge is particularly relevant to the stages of planning and evaluation in health care (Veiga & Coelho, 2015). I believe that learning in this area is a prerequisite for success in dental practice.
Dental epidemiology plays a significant role in dentistry today. It studies cause-and-effect connections as well as patterns of occurrence, distribution, and modification of diseases in populations. Therefore, it provides valuable data and proposes solutions for modern dentistry challenges. Currently pursuing my plan to be enrolled at a dental school and become a dental doctor in the United States, I regard learning about dental epidemiology as one of my professional development goals. It will help me make decisions, and adopt practices, based on the research data that go beyond processes of treatment to higher-scale levels of efficiency and preventive health care.
Andersson, L. (2013). Epidemiology of traumatic dental injuries. Journal of Endodontics, 39(3), S2-S5.
Epidemiologic Concepts in Oral Health. (n.d.). Web.
Veiga, N., & Coelho, I. (2015). The Importance of Epidemiology in Dental Medicine. Journal of Dental and Oral Health, 1(4), 21-24.