Dental study to change face of NHS dentistry

A dental school has scooped funding for its innovative research into preventive methods that may change the face of NHS dentistry.

The Oral Health Unit (OHU) based at the University of Manchester won significant funding to run a study which focuses on prevention rather than treatment.

The £1.7 million study will see if a prevention package, delivered by dentists in practice, can prevent tooth decay in children.

The trial outcomes could inform the development of NHS dental services and interventions in the UK.

The three-year multi-collaborative trial will take place in Northern Ireland, but will involve a team of dental experts led by Professor Martin Tickle of the OHU at Manchester.

The OHU has ‘an impressive track record of delivering high profile, policy-relevant dental research’ and the unit was selected to run this three-year trial following their application to this open call.

Professor Tickle says: ‘This is hugely significant for dentistry as we were competing with all other areas of dental, health and health care research. It demonstrates our research reputation in being selected to deliver a study with such important potential outcomes.’

Recent studies have shown that prevention of decay in the primary teeth in NHS general dental practice is not very effective, and that over a three-year period, 35% of two to three year olds registered with a dentist develop tooth decay.

Northern Ireland has a particular problem as approximately 45% of five year olds have tooth decay.

In England, all NHS GDPs have been sent Delivering Better Oral Health An evidence-based toolkit for prevention which identifies best evidence for preventive care.

But research has yet to show whether these interventions are cost effective when used in everyday NHS practice.

The trial will therefore test the cost effectiveness of fluoride varnish and family-strength fluoride toothpaste provided in general practice twice a year to help prevent decay.

Professor Tickle adds: ‘The aim of the trial is to see if we can keep a larger proportion of children free of decay by using a fluoride varnish and toothpaste. Hopefully, the findings will help to inform future policy on children’s dental health and focus on proactively preventing tooth decay rather than treating the disease once it has started.’

The trial will be planned and managed by a partnership of General Dental Practitioners, Community Dental Service dentists, academics from the University of Manchester and Queen’s University. It has the full and active backing of the CDO and the DH.

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