Behavioral & Social Factors Affecting Oral Health

Daniel McNeil
Daniel W. McNeil, Ph.D., is a member of the American Dental Education Association, the American Psychological Association, the International Association for Dental Research, and a Fellow of the American Association of Dental, Oral and Craniofacial Research,

A special issue of Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, published in February 2023, brings together research and insights from experts in behavioral and social factors that influence oral health and overall healthcare. Daniel W. McNeil, Ph.D., an endowed professor and chair of the UF Department of Community Dentistry and Behavioral Science, and his colleague, Cameron L. Randall, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Dentistry, collaborated for several years as co-editors of the special issue: Advancing the Behavioural and Social Sciences to Promote Oral Health.

In 2020 McNeil and Randall brought together colleagues from across the world for a three-day, international summit, Behavioral and Social Oral Health Sciences, that included more than 400 stakeholders representing 57 countries. After the summit, they and an international steering committee assembled a Consensus Statement that was endorsed by summit attendees and others from across the globe, ultimately being published in the Journal of Dental Research.

The publication is the culmination of several years of work and includes 24 articles with 64 authors, written by scholars from across the world and based on discussions, outcomes, and new directions that arose from the 2020 summit. The issue is organized into four thematic areas of needed focus with next steps for research, practice, advocacy and policy.

It focuses on factors that influence people and their behavior at every level of our systems of oral healthcare, including patients, dentists and other providers, clinics, public policymakers, and industry with the ultimate goal of enhancing the oral health and well-being of all, including those who are underserved.

Reflecting on the time and effort invested in the project with colleagues across the world, McNeil said, “It was a wonderful journey, listening to dental patients, dentists and other providers, and scientists from across the world, solidifying consensus on what needs to happen to fully embrace the behavioral and social aspects of oral health.”

The issue includes ‘lessons learned’ for dentists and all members of the oral healthcare team, including patients, insurance providers, and those who make public policy. And, of course all of these elements revolve around the most important parts of this system – the patient and the public.

“One of the essential aspects of this initiative has been to emphasize the importance of patient experiences and preferences during dental care. The chairside manner of dentists and dental staff is crucial in making dental appointments positive and effective, and is affected by upstream policies and systems that impact health for all of us,” McNeil said.

Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology is a bimonthly peer-reviewed medical journal covering dental public health and the application of epidemiology to dentistry.