27 Apr 2012

Health Minister Visits Pioneering Northern Ireland Dental Research Trial

Health Minister Visits Pioneering Northern Ireland Dental Research Trial
Source: Northern Ireland Executive
Published Thursday, April 26, 2012 - 10:11
Health Minister Edwin Poots today marked the completion of the first phase of a pioneering research study aimed at making a significant improvement to the oral health of young children in Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Caries Prevention in Practice (NIC-PIP) trial is a landmark research study monitoring the oral health of some 1,200 children aged 2-4 over a four-year period. Around 88 dentists are participating right across Northern Ireland.

During a visit to the Arches Centre in East Belfast, the Minister saw at firsthand how the trial is progressing. He said: “This is the first time that such a trial has been undertaken in Western Europe and is a major coup for Northern Ireland. Although we know that fluoride varnish works in clinically controlled environments, it has never been tested as to whether these topical fluorides are 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 revolutionise how we care for young dental patients and will dramatically reduce dental caries in our population. It will also shift the focus of the dental service towards preventive care.”

The trial provides an opportunity to test the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of professionally applied fluoride varnish to the teeth of children under five years of age. It will measure how many children remain free of decay and the incidence of toothache and extractions across the group.

The Minister continued: “I am very happy to support this trial today which I hope will provide the necessary evidence to underpin preventive care in high street dental practices.

“We spend almost £100 million of health service funding on high street dentistry and much of this money is spent repairing the effects of dental decay. I am keen to turn this around and focus on the prevention of dental disease which will improve the oral health of our children and will be a more cost effective use of our dental budget.”

Michael Donaldson, Head of Dental Services, Health and Social Care Board, said:

“The HSCB sees the NIC-PIP trial as world class research that will help commissioners and policy makers across the UK decide how best to prevent dental decay in young children’s teeth. A very significant spin-off of this project is that we now have the experience, relationships and the infrastructure to take part in other groundbreaking trials aimed at improving dental health.”Professor Martin Tickle, Dental Public Health & Primary Care, University of Manchester, said: “This is a landmark trial for dentistry and its findings will inform the development of dental services policy in Northern Ireland the UK and also internationally. The Chief Dental Officer and the Department of Health in Northern Ireland should be congratulated for their far-sighted approach in supporting the trial and their commitment to improving the evidence based for dental services.”

The project brings together the University of Manchester, the Health and Social Care Board, the Community Dental Service, the British Dental Association and the Research and Development Office.

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