Social Determinants of Health in a Dental Hygiene Class (2022)

Danette Lindeman

As part of my Community Dental Health series, our students rotate to various community health clinics where they provide dental hygiene services for patients with a variety of ethnicities, languages spoken, socioeconomic statuses, beliefs about health, etc. While students learn the necessary clinical skills in other courses, in community health we talk about how to communicate and connect with each patient they come across. One of my passions for the last several years has been helping students to understand “social determinants of health.” I had such an “ah-ha” moment when I first learned about it and am always trying to find creative ways to help them understand it. It is too easy to simplistically blame someone who has a dental disease without taking into account other factors in their lives.

This video from This is Uncomfortable, on Marketplace, Why don’t you fix your teeth?, has been very impactful in helping students learn the social determinants of health.

Also, our program recently purchased the board game The Last Straw, which is about social determinants of health. We played it for the first time last quarter and it facilitated some good learning moments. The Last Straw! is a fun and exciting teaching tool on the social determinants of health. The game has three objectives:

  • to promote discussion about the social determinants of health;
  • to help players build empathy with marginalized people and gain an awareness of players’ own social location;
  • to encourage learning in a fun and supportive environment.


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Diversity and Social Justice – Faculty Guide (2022 Edition) Copyright © 2021 by Danette Lindeman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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