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Dentistry in the tension between professional and economic values

Conference contribution
Authors Karin Berg
Ylva Ulfsdotter Eriksson
Published in RN19, Sociology of Professions. 12th Conference of the European Sociological Association, 25-28/8, Prague.
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Sociology and Work Science
Language en
Keywords dentistry, dental care for health, professionalism
Subject categories Sociology


Dental care is, in contrast to medical care, more costly for the individual care seekers who have to bear a much larger part. In Sweden, a national oral health insurance was launched in the ´70s, in order to remedy inequalities. Despite improved dental health for some, differences remains and socio-economically disadvantaged groups still have poorer dental health, and visit the dentist less often. In 2007 a new payment system for patients were introduced within Public Dental Service in order to help patients to more predictable costs. The preventative dental care is an assurance where the patient pays a fixed, monthly fee. The insurance is “sold” to the patient by dentists or dental hygienists who also make a risk assessment and draw up a care plan. Previous studies have shown that the new insurance system created a “moral dilemma” for the professions, in for instance, the contradiction between professional values and economy and profitability. In a way, the new insurance policy turned the professionals into sales persons since they were to ones to introduce and perhaps persuade the client to sign in. Based on a qualitative interview study with 15 dentists and dental hygienists, we describe how they relate to dental insurance seven years after the introduction. We describe how they work with sales, and whether they perceive that it is a tool that improves equality in dental health. The insurance, with enhanced pressure on the professions to act in a more economically competitive way, with demands on sales figures and outcomes, is an expression of the management ideas which falls within NPM. Theoretically we draw on these changes and analyses how it has affected the dental professions.

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