If we could grade the social conditions of society from excellent to poor we would find that population oral health status followed precisely the same gradient. Where social conditions are excellent, oral health status tends also to be excellent. Where social conditions are poor, oral health likewise is poor. This is so because the oral health of populations is socially determined. 'Social determinants of oral health: conditions linked to socioeconomic inequalities in oral health in the Australian population' illustrates the social distribution of oral health status in the Australian adult population. It draws links between material, psychosocial and behavioural factors with oral health status. Among adults in the labour force it highlights links between socially produced work conditions and oral health status. It looks back in time to social and psychosocial conditions of childhood and links those experiences with contemporaneous outcomes in adulthood. This thought-provoking publication leaves one wondering to what extent society should help people cope with the social conditions of their lives and to what extent those social conditions themselves should be addressed to improve oral health.