​Section of Population Oral Health

Burton L. Edelstein, DDS, MPH
Chair, Section of Population Oral Health
Director, Division of Behavioral Sciences


The Section of Population Oral Health (SPOH) serves the College of Dental Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center, the University, local populations, and policy makers at all levels of government with the goals of improving oral health outcomes for all, improving equity in care, and aligning the profession with advances in U.S. healthcare.

The Section is home to the Division of Behavioral Sciences and the Division of Community Health.


Part of Columbia University Medical Center and Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, the Section of Population Oral Health advances population oral health through interdisciplinary and transformative research, teaching, community engagement, and policy making and evaluation.

Columbia Population Oral Health serves vulnerable populations including children, seniors, and people living with HIV/AIDS. We strive to align the oral health profession with advances in U.S. and global healthcare and fundamental changes in the larger healthcare system.


The Section of Population Oral Health prepares students for practice and systems that will be fundamentally different from those of today. This requires imparting equal parts clinical knowledge and population knowledge. We provide Columbia health sciences students and trainees with a variety of learning opportunities to explore the multidisciplinary, integrated nature of their professions.

Coursework for predoctoral dental students focuses on understanding dental care within the contexts of person, family, community and society. Students with an identified interest in dental public health may elect additional coursework, mentorship, and research engagement at both the College of Dental Medicine and the Mailman School of Public Health.

The Section offers several Dual Degree Programs for students who wish to formally engage in deeper study of disciplines within and outside the fields of medicine and biological sciences, including Epidemiology, Biostatistics, Sociomedicial Sciences, Health Policy, Business, Healthcare Administration and Nutrition.

The postdoctoral Dental Public Health Program is an intensive 12-month program ideally suited to dentists with MPH or equivalent degrees who wish to pursue leadership careers in public health.

Through a federal “Community Based Dental Partnership Program” grant, the Section, in collaboration with the Harlem United Community AIDS Center, provides community participatory clinical training for AEGD  fellows in the care of people living with HIV/AIDS. Through two additional federal training grants, the Division provides dental public health and research mentorship to trainees of the Pediatric Dentistry Residency and offers a “Leadership in Pediatric Dentistry Fellowship” to graduate pediatric dentists that also involves pursuit of the MPH degree.


Our faculty engages in epidemiologic, health services, and behavioral research. Areas of interest include:

  • Community Health Promotion
  • Dental-Medical Care Systems Interface
  • Dentists' Behaviors
  • Early Childhood Caries
  • Epidemiology
  • Evidence Based Care Guidelines
  • Future of Financing and Delivery of Care
  • Head Start
  • Health Services Research
  • Medicaid
  • Oral Health Promotion
  • Oral-Systemic Interactions
  • Oral Health Policy

Learn more about research currently being conducted by the Section of Population Oral Health.

Policy Endeavors

The Section informs decision-makers at all levels of government about options that leverage public dollars and programs in ways that aid their constituencies, particularly vulnerable and dependent populations.

Community Outreach

The Section is deeply involved with the communities of Washington Heights, Inwood, and Harlem through the Community DentCare Program. Community DentCare provides patient-centered dental services through six school-based clinics and a Mobile Dental Center linked to five community-based practices in Northern Manhattan. The Section is also involved in the development of several interactive apps and web-based projects that will potentially have a wider reach.