Inclusion oral health: Advancing a theoretical framework for policy, research and practice

Ruth Freeman (Lead / Corresponding author), Janine Doughty, Mary-Ellen MacDonald, Vanessa Muirhead

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)
328 Downloads (Pure)


In response to headlines about the oral health of persons experiencing social exclusion resonating in high-income countries, and research demonstrating the need for urgent action, a symposium entitled ‘International Perspectives on Socially Inclusive Dentistry: A Call to Action’ was organized for the IADR International Meeting of 2018. The aim of the symposium was to initiate an international dialogue on barriers to care, multidisciplinary action, and examples of best practice for service delivery for people experiencing social exclusion; in other words, to develop the idea of inclusion oral health. Through our international exchange, what emerged was an awareness of a lack of professional consensus: What exactly is inclusion oral health? A theoretical framework to push forward the policy, research and practice agenda was clearly needed.
This paper advances such a framework. Over the decades, dentistry has forged an approach to service delivery mainly through a business, demand-led model. While oral health continues to improve globally, an important consequence of this approach is that it compounds the social exclusion that many people are already experiencing because of a constellation of economic, political, cultural and individual factors. Thus, many people are simply not getting the dental care they need. In contrast, drawing on the theoretical literature on social exclusion, intersectionality and othering, we suggest that dentistry could act as an agent for social inclusion as a more responsive, all-encompassing form of oral health care and delivery. This paper advances a theoretical framework for inclusion oral health and an action plan to show how inclusion oral health may become one solution in an armamentarium to tackle the global phenomena of oral health inequities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalCommunity Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology
Issue number1
Early online date18 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • extreme oral health
  • inclusion oral health
  • intersectionality
  • othering
  • social exclusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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