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November 2022

Int Dent J. 1993 Feb; 43(1): 2-8.

Improving oral health through understanding the meaning of health and disease in a Chinese culture.

Lee KL, Schwarz E, Mak KY.

University of Hong Kong, Faculty of Dentistry, Department of Periodontology and Public Health, Prince Philip Dental Hospital.

Advances in modern technology have undoubtedly been of benefit to dentistry in its preventive and curative activities for populations worldwide. Studies, mainly from Western societies, show nonetheless that utilisation of services or adoption of preventive methods are not taken up at satisfactory levels. The focus of this paper is on the special problems in a Chinese society where major differences exist between the traditional lay health concepts and the modernised professional ones. Traditional Chinese health concepts comprise the balance between and interaction of 'Yin' and 'Yang', the vital forces in both the universe and in man's body, as the basis for maintaining health. To restore a disturbed equilibrium of vital forces, which will manifest itself as disease, a range of dietary products are available in Hong Kong, for example cooling herb tea to reduce fire from the stomach producing gum disease. Seeking dental treatment from dentists could be delayed or made 'unnecessary' due to reliance on home remedies. This could reduce the effectiveness of any planned health education activities and dental services available for improving the oral health status of the community according to prevailing Western concepts. An understanding of the cultural meaning of dental disease is fundamental to changing beliefs and attitudes of people in order to improve the oral health of the community.

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