Major children’s dental study underway

Pictured are community dental staff taking part in the training
Pictured are community dental staff taking part in the training

Over 1,200 children from across 22 dental practices have been taking part in a pioneering research study aimed at making a significant improvement to the oral health of young children in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland has the highest level of childhood dental decay in the UK and in order to tackle this issue, a partnership between academia and healthcare professionals has been created to develop this unique dental trial.

The trial aimed at improving children’s dental health - Northern Ireland Caries Prevention in Practice Trial (NIC-PIP) funded by the Health Technology Assessment programme of the National Institute for Health Research - is the largest ever practice-based randomized control trial to investigate the prevention of tooth decay in young children.

The trial is evaluating the use of fluoride varnish and fluoride toothpaste in preventing dental decay. Participating children have been involved in the trial for up to three years.

Community dental staff from across the five Health Trusts recently took part in a dental training and calibration exercise, kindly hosted by St Joseph’s Primary School, Crumlin.

Children from Year 2 and Year 3 participated in the training which will ensure that the effect of the varnish and toothpaste can be accurately measured. Academic and clinical staff from University of Manchester and Lancashire Care Dental Services facilitated the training and calibration which was carried out in line with national protocols for epidemiological assessment of children’s teeth.

Michael Donaldson, Head of Dental Services, Health and Social Care Board, said: “This is the first time that such a large research trial has been undertaken in the UK and is a major coup for Northern Ireland. Although we know that fluoride varnish is very effective when tested under tightly controlled circumstances, it is less clear whether these topical fluorides are as effective in ‘real life’ settings such as dental practices.

“If this trial is able to prove effectiveness and cost effectiveness of topical fluorides in dental practice, it will change how we care for young dental patients and, in time, markedly reduce the amount of dental decay experienced by young children. It will also shift the focus of our dental service to preventive care.”

Solveig Noble, Clinical Director of Community Dental Services, Northern Health and Social Care Trust, said:

“As community dentists, we see young children in pain from advanced tooth decay on a daily basis. At this stage the only option is dental extractions under general anaesthetic in hospital. This is extremely traumatic for the child and their parents and often leads to increased anxiety for future dental treatment. We are therefore delighted to be involved in this ground-breaking research as our service actively supports preventative measures that will lead to the reduction of tooth decay in young children.

“On behalf of the NIC-PIP team, I would also like to express our sincere thanks and appreciation to St Joseph’s primary school in Crumlin – in particular the children in primary 2 and 3 for their warm welcome and for facilitating this training.”