Research to improve children’s oral health

An academic from Teesside University whose work aims to improve the oral health of young children and babies is taking her research to Brazil.

Dr Vida Zohoori, a reader in oral public health and nutrition, says the gap between the recommended daily intake of fluoride in children to prevent tooth decay and the level that could cause tooth mottling is too narrow.

She is researching the intake, extraction and retention of fluoride in young children and babies to gain a better understanding of how to improve their oral health.

As part of her work, Dr Zohoori is leading a project looking at the retention of fluoride in babies living in fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas in the north east.

Projects

This month she will be helping to run a four day workshop in Brazil – working with the British Council and partner universities to address priority research questions in fluoride metabolism research.

The aim is to find out more about both the benefits and side effects of fluoride intake to improve international public health.

Dr Zohoori has also recently returned from China where she is working on a collaborative project with Harbin Commerce University to measure fluoride contents of drink in the country.

‘The research I am undertaking here and the work I am carrying out abroad is driven by a desire to improve oral health, especially in young children,’ explained Vida.

‘Tooth decay is still one of the most globally prevalent chronic diseases of childhood and can have a detrimental effect on quality of life by affecting normal social roles, self-esteem, nutrition, communication and general health, causing pain, discomfort and loss of function.

‘It also imposes a large financial burden on healthcare systems since its treatment is expensive, costing between 5% and 10% of total healthcare expenditure in industrialised countries and exceeding the cost of treating cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoporosis.’

Fluoride intake

Vida added that because fluoride has been identified as a key protective factor in the prevention and control of decay, many countries have based their oral health improvement strategies on the use of fluoride, such as fluoridated water, fluoridated milk, fluoridated salt and fluoridated toothpastes.

The suggested intake of fluoride is 0.05-0.07mg per kg in body weight per day – whereas the dose that might cause tooth mottling is 0.1mg per kg in body weight.

Vida said: ‘The findings of our recent studies in babies, 0-12 months and 4-6 year old children living in a fluoridated area suggested that swallowing fluoridated toothpaste by children during toothbrushing rather than living in a fluoridated area might put a child at risk of overexposure or developing tooth mottling.

‘The problem with fluoridated toothpaste, for example, is the amount of toothpaste used. The recommended amount is a smear amount of toothpaste for babies and a pea size of toothpaste for children, but parents can put too much paste on and may not supervise the brushing. This can impact on the daily fluoride intake.’

 

Database

In collaboration with colleagues at Newcastle University, Dr Zohoori has developed a unique database that lists the fluoride content of more than 500 separate food and beverage items in order to help researchers and organisations estimate the amount of fluoride that individuals consume daily.

‘The database is a useful guide that has been put together over a number of years through various research projects. It will help to create a better understanding of the levels of fluoride intake in children’s diets.’

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