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Centring anti-oppressive justice: Re-envisioning dentistry's social contract.

OBJECTIVES: We re-envision dentistry's social contract and elaborate on the idea that it is not neutral and free from such things as racism and white supremacy and can act as a tool of oppression.

METHODS: We critique social contract theory through examination of classical and contemporary contract theorists. More specifically, our analysis draws from the work of Charles W. Mills, a philosopher of race and liberalism, as well as the theoretical and praxis framework of intersectionality.

RESULTS: Social contract theory supports hierarchies and inequities that may be used to sustain unfair and unjust differences in oral health between social groups. When dentistry's social contract becomes a tool of oppression, its practice does not promote health equity but reinforces damaging social norms.

CONCLUSION: Dentistry must embrace an anti-oppression framing of equity and elevate the principle of justice to one of liberation and not just fairness. In doing so, the profession can better understand itself, act more equitably and empower practitioners to advocate for justice in health and healthcare in its fullest sense. Anti-oppressive justice supports health not as merely an obligation but as a human duty.

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