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News / November 23, 2009

NI dental study focuses on prevention

by Guy Hiscott

A new trial aimed at reducing tooth decay in the under fives in Northern Ireland was launched on 23 November by Health Minister Michael McGimpsey.

The Northern Ireland Caries Prevention in Practice trial will investigate the effectiveness of professionally applied fluoride varnish in preventing tooth decay in young children. These children will also use fluoride toothpaste at home.

Around 2,400 children and 50 dental sites across Northern Ireland will be involved in the trial. Each child will be monitored over three years to check if they develop dental caries.

Launching the trial, the Minister McGimpsey said: ‘This trial will investigate a new approach to preventing tooth decay at an early age by applying fluoride varnish to teeth as well as using fluoride toothpaste.

‘It is vitally important that we look at new approaches to tackling tooth decay as, unfortunately, young people in Northern Ireland have some of the worst oral health in western Europe.

‘Last year, for example, 26,500 teeth were extracted from children who underwent a general anaesthetic in hospital for dental extraction. While this figure is a marked improvement over previous years, it is still way too high and unacceptable.

‘Our priority should be prevention, with a focus on keeping our young children free of dental decay.

‘We know of course that reducing our consumption of sugary foods and drink is extremely effective in preventing dental decay but experience has shown us that, although patients understand this message, they tend not to change their diet sufficiently to make a difference to their oral health. The use of fluoride through this trial offers us the best opportunity to make a significant impact in improving our oral health.’

The Minister concluded: ‘Investing in preventive care now will provide dividends for the next generation. I very much look forward to the results of this trial and wish the team every success.’

The trial has been developed through a partnership between Manchester University, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, the Health and Social Care Board, the NI Research and Development Office and the British Dental Association.