Study aims to identify best way of preventing child tooth decay
A one million study designed to identify the most effective way of preventing child tooth decay in some of South Wales’ most deprived communities has been given the go-ahead.
Experts from Cardiff University, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board’s Community Dental Service and Swansea University have been awarded £1.1 million by the National Institute for Health Research to compare the effectiveness of two methods of preventing dental decay.
Despite an overall decline in dental decay across the UK, 57% of 15 year-olds still currently require a filling or extraction. Dental cavities are also unevenly distributed and are closely linked to socioeconomic deprivation – with a three-fold difference in disease burden from most to least deprived communities.
“In school children, dental decay most commonly affects the biting surfaces of molar (back) teeth,” according to Professor Ivor Chestnutt, Consultant in Dental Public Health from Cardiff University’s School of Dentistry, who leads the study.
Two methods of decay prevention technology are currently widely used by the NHS.
Pit and fissure sealants are a plastic coating applied to the biting surface of the tooth which helps prevent the harbouring of decay causing bacteria.
The alternative method involves the painting of fluoride varnish onto the tooth surface which makes the tooth surface more resistant to decay.
Both treatments have been shown to be effective yet, there is little evidence to show which works best, which is most acceptable to children and offers the best value for money.
Professor Chestnutt added: “Although both of these treatments have been around for many years and have been shown to work, to know which works best and is most acceptable from the perspective of the children, their parents, the dental staff carrying out the treatments, and the schools in which the treatment will be delivered will be of tremendous value to the National Health Service.
“We are delighted to have the opportunity to carry out this study, the results of which will be of relevance to improving oral health, not just locally, but nationally and internationally.”
The study will be undertaken by Community Dental Service in Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, who deliver a primary school-based dental prevention programme via mobile dental clinics.
The three-year study, which starts in early 2011, aims to recruit over 2,800 primary school pupils from schools from Communities First areas across South Wales.
Dr Deborah Fitzsimmons, Senior Lecturer, School of Human and Health Sciences at Swansea University and a member of the research study team said: “In an age of economic restraint, it is essential that interventions are both effective and cost-effective.
“This study aims to ensure that limited public funds are allocated in the most beneficial way to enhance the oral health of children. The Swansea University team look forward to working with our colleagues in Cardiff on this important study.’
The children will be followed up for three years to investigate the comparable effectiveness of the two treatments with results expected to be published in early 2015.
For more information on the School of Human and Health Sciences at Swansea University visit http://www.swansea.ac.uk/humanandhealthsciences/