For the first time, members of the public, patients, carers and dental health professionals have worked together to identify the most pressing unanswered research questions about how we can improve oral and dental health for individual patients, communities and the whole population. View the Top 10 research priorities.
Despite huge improvements over the last five decades, dental health remains a major public health problem. One in four five-year-olds in England have had tooth decay and nearly three times as many children from the poorest families are affected than those from the richest. As a nation we spend more than £3 billion on NHS dentistry every year.
In 2017 a ground-breaking partnership, between the NIHR Clinical Research Network Oral and Dental Health Specialty Group in collaboration with the Dental Schools Council and Public Health England, was launched to identify unanswered questions relating to oral and dental health research from a patient, public and clinical perspective.
The work has taken 18 months to complete and identified gaps in knowledge about oral and dental care using a method tried and tested by the James Lind Alliance:
- 6 Sep 2017 – 28 Feb 2018: The Priority Setting Partnership began with an online survey developed by a Steering Group that allowed anybody with an interest in oral and dental health to suggest questions for research. In total 607 people took part in the survey generating over 1,100 possible research questions.
- Mar 2018 – Sep 2018: These individual questions were assessed for similarities and grouped into broader, overarching questions by the Cochrane Oral Health Group at the University of Manchester. This resulted in a long list of 38 overarching questions that had never been fully answered.
- 9 Oct 2018 – 16 Nov 2018: The interim survey launched. In total 1,402 lay people and dentists voted on the long list of 38 questions. The results for the lay people and dentists were combined to create a shortlist of the 25 most important research questions.
- 12 Dec 2018: The shortlist was then taken to the final workshop where lay people and dentists (spanning all sectors of society and relevant professions) agreed the Top 10 most important questions for future research to answer.
Madeeha Saghir, Maariya Mahmood and Fauziah Hussain of Batley Girls’ Sixth Form said:
“We are passionate about the future of dental health. This partnership has shown the complexities of achieving good oral health amongst different communities. Working with other lay people and dental professionals, we have found a Top 10 that we can all agree should be the major oral and dental research priorities for this country.”
Professor Peter Robinson of the University of Bristol and the NIHR who led the Priority Setting Partnership said:
“It is hugely important to have worked with our patients and the general public to have identified these Top 10 questions. With 60 million patients nationally and so many different diseases to consider, these priorities will help researchers concentrate on the most pressing problems. Agencies who fund research have already said they will focus their efforts on the topics we have identified today, that means the questions we have identified today will now be answered in the next few years.”
More information is available on the Oral and Dental Health Priority Setting Partnership website.
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