Oral Health, Systemic Health, Well-Being, and the Social Sciences


Oral health sits at the crossroads of health and the social sciences and is intimately connected to the health and socioeconomic welfare of individuals, families, and communities. As a result, efforts to improve oral health must consider both the consequences and causes of underlying social and economic factors.

With its distinguished tradition of innovation in social science methods and the application of these methods to complex problems, the University of Chicago is uniquely poised to tackle these challenges. With funding from the George E. Richmond Foundation, the Center for Health and the Social Sciences (CHeSS) has created the Program in Oral Health, Systemic Health, Well-Being, and the Social Sciences.  The Program in Oral Health seeks to apply leading-edge social science methods to address important problems in oral health through research and the training of researchers who will transform oral health locally, nationally, and internationally.

Current Projects

Researchers David Meltzer, MD, PhD, and Kathleen Cagney, PhD, lead the program’s inaugural research projects: 1) Dental Health of Hospitalized Patients; and 2) Lakeside: Dental Health Amid Urban Transformation.  These studies seek to discover strategies to improve the access to and quality of oral care for vulnerable populations.

Training Programs

The training activities of the Program in Oral Health include funding for faculty development, dissertation fellowships for predoctoral students, and doctoral training in the social sciences for dental students and professionals. All of these programs challenge historical boundaries between dental care, medicine, and the social sciences.