Oral health is an intrinsic part of overall health. The mouth is part of the digestive and respiratory systems; it is essential to spoken communication and facial expression; in fact, toothaches are among the most severe and hence debilitating kinds of pain that a person can suffer. The economic cost of dental disease is staggering, equaling an annual loss of some 20 million days of work in the US alone. But far more disastrous is the personal cost for those suffering from these conditions. More than 100 million US citizens lack dental insurance. There is widespread consensus that the resulting disparities are most unfortunate. But are they also unfair? The dental profession and society at large appear much less eager to confirm the unfairness of this situation. After all, with unfairness comes the ethical obligation to attempt rectification of the situation. It is one thing to praise charitable voluntarism; it is quite another to insist on distributive justice. This book makes the case for justice in oral health. Renowned dental ethicists discuss various theoretical perspectives; national and international policy experts propose practical changes; and experienced dental educators outline innovative teaching modes. This book is not just food for thought; it is an invitation to critical discussion and creative planning.
Dr. Jos Welie is a Professor at the Center for Health Policy and Ethics at Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, USA, where he teaches both medical and dental ethics. He is the Founding Secretary of the International Dental Ethics and Law Society and has written extensively on professionalism and ethics in dentistry. His previous book for Marquette University Press was Jesuit Health Sciences & the Promotion of Justice: An Invitation to a Discussion, with Judith Lee Kissell (ISBN 0-87462-694-3).