A new research project led by the Universities of Dundee and Sheffield has been awarded almost £2 million to investigate ways of improving the oral health of young people living in deprived areas.
The researchers will work with 48 schools and nearly 6,000 young people in Scotland, England and Wales on the four-year Brushing Reminder 4 Good Oral Health (BRIGHT) initiative.
BRIGHT, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), will investigate whether a classroom-based lesson about dental health followed by a series of text messages could increase how often and how well children aged 11–16 brush their teeth – and ultimately reduce levels of tooth decay.
In each school, one class will receive the talk and a series of text messages, while another will not. The team will collect information on tooth decay, frequency of brushing, and the impact decay has on the children's lives to determine whether those in the programme develop better oral health habits than those who don't participate.
Professor Nicola Innes (pictured, right), from Dundee's School of Dentistry, said, 'Dental decay is preventable and, in some ways, that should be simple. Just brush with a toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. However, enacting that prevention at the level of the individual person isn't always so simple.
'We are looking forward to taking up the challenge in this often overlooked group – young people living in deprived areas – who suffer a disproportionate amount of dental disease, toothache, and subsequent loss of sleep and time at school.'
The classroom-based teaching session has been created by Dundee's School of Education and Social Work, while the text messages will be delivered via TextApp, a software tool devised by the School of Medicine's Health Informatics Centre.
The Dundee and Sheffield researchers will work with colleagues from the Universities of Leeds (Professor Sue Pavitt and Dr Peter Day) and Cardiff (Professor Ivor Chestnutt) and the York Trials Unit on the project.
Dr Zoe Marshman (pictured, left), Reader in Dental Public Health at the University of Sheffield, said, 'We welcome the opportunity to help children in secondary schools in deprived areas achieve good dental health which can then be maintained throughout their lives.'
More information about the project is available at: https://www.york.ac.uk/healthsciences/research/trials/research/trials/bright/.