Mar. 23, 2007 Traditional Chinese medical beliefs continue to have an impact on oral health in Beijing, China, says Jacqueline Hom, a dental student at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine (Boston, MA, USA), who reported her findings during the 85th General Session of the International Association for Dental Research.
Over a two-month period, she gathered ethnographic data from 67 respondents, including patients, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) professionals, and dental practitioners. Each of the respondents used the concept of shang huo (rising heat) to describe oral health problems.
When patients had symptoms of shang huo, such as tooth pain, gingival swelling, and a sore throat, they sought 'purging fire' herbal medicine from the pharmacy or visited the dentist. TCM doctors regarded the concept of huo (fire) as excessive or deficient and described the consequences of patients taking inappropriate medication for huo. Chinese dentists often teach themselves TCM concepts and treatments to better serve patients with the chief complaint, "I am shang huo."
Various perspectives on shang huo illustrate how multiple medical traditions can interact within a single oral health culture. Understandings the existing oral health culture in Beijing, such as shang huo, can aid in the development of future oral health programs and assist oral health-care practitioners in serving their patients better.
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