The epidemiological literature has been limited by the absence of a theoretical framework reflecting the complexity of causal mechanisms for the occurrence of health phenomena / disease conditions. In the field of oral epidemiology, such lack of theory also prevails, since dental caries the leading topic in oral research has been often studied through a biological and reductionist viewpoint. One of the most important consequences of dental caries is dental pain (odontalgia), which has received little attention in studies with sophisticated theoretical models and powerful designs to establish causal relationships. The purpose of this study is to review the scientific literature on the determinants of odontalgia and to discuss theories proposed for the explanation of the phenomenon. Conceptual models and emerging theories on the social determinants of oral health are revised, in an attempt to build up links with the bio-psychosocial pain model, proposing a more elaborate causal model for odontalgia. The framework suggests causal pathways between social structure and oral health through material, psychosocial and behavioral pathways. Aspects of the social structure are highlighted in order to relate them to odontalgia, stressing their importance in discussions of causal relationships in oral health research.
Odontalgia; Social determinants; Risk factors