A change of approach in dental care across Europe

Dental careThe University of Leeds is at the forefront of a new four-year project which aims to transform future dental care across Europe.

The €6 million research project, funded by the European Union, aims to bring about a shift in dental care practices, from a focus on treating teeth by extraction and fillings, to more effective oral health care treatments to prevent disease in the first place.

Dental treatment costs an estimated €79bn (www.oralhealthplatform.eu, 2012) a year across the EU, yet these diseases are almost entirely preventable.

Using de-identified data from millions of health records across Europe, researchers will work with dental professionals and insurers to identifyeffective strategies in preventing disease in each country.

Providing continuous feedback to shape best practice, a set of key performance indicators will be developed that dentists and healthcare systems can measure against.

The project will be led by the University of Leeds, in conjunction with the Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam and the University of Heidelberg, in collaboration with NHS England, universities and dental insurers from across Europe.

More preventive dental care

Professor Helen Whelton, dean of Leeds Dental School and project lead, said: ‘The World Health Organisation has said that dental diseases are the most common chronic diseases known to man. We want to change this.’

‘The hope is that, by continually assessing and feeding back the performance of dental professionals and healthcare systems in keeping teeth healthy, it will foster change in practices and encourage a move to more preventive dental care.

‘We will be using secure, de-identified medical records to develop a model with a focus on preventing dental problems, which gives dentists and health systems the ability to measure their success in making patients healthier.’

‘We will be looking at things such as how long teeth remain healthy with no need for treatment or, at country level, the amount spent on extractions each year. This information can be compared across different systems and countries.’

The project will have access to eight European patient record databases, from countries including Britain, The Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Denmark and Hungary.

In addition to hearing the views of professionals and insurers, the project will also consult with patients in the participant countries to identify their preferences and gain their perspective on the dental care they receive.

Professor Whelton added: ‘This is a fantastic example of collaboration between universities, the public sector and the private sector, with the aim of improving the dental health of an entire continent, and we hope this will feed in to the reform of healthcare systems globally.’

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