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Preventing tooth decay

28 Medi 2010

University research will help reduce tooth decay in childrenUniversity research will help reduce tooth decay in children

University experts have received a £1M funding boost to undertake a clinical trial to help identify the most effective way of preventing tooth decay in children in some of South Wales’ most disadvantaged communities.

Experts from University’s School of Dentistry, the School of Medicine’s South East Wales Trials Unit and School of Social Sciences, Cardiff Institute for Society Health and Ethics will work alongside experts from Cardiff and Vale University Health Board’s Community Dental Service and Swansea University to compare the effectiveness of two methods of preventing dental decay amongst school children.

Despite an overall decline in dental decay across the UK, 57% of 15 year-olds still currently require a filling or extraction. Dental caries is 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 commonly affects the biting surfaces of molar (back) teeth," according to Professor Ivor Chestnutt, Consultant in Dental Public Health, School of Dentistry, who will lead the study.

Funded by the National Institute for Health Research, the research will consider the effectiveness of two methods of decay prevention technology, 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.

Starting in early 2011, the study aims to recruit over 2,800 primary school pupils from schools from Communities First areas across South Wales.

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.

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