Toddlers’ oral health research secures funding
A youngster from the Family Nurse Partnership acquaints herself with a dentist's chair, all part of helping her have better oral health

A research project run by Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry (PU PSMD) with the Family Nurse Partnership Programme has secured funding of £70,000 over three years from The Wrigley Company Ltd. This funding will support a PhD post for a hygienist or dental therapist to develop a programme for dental nurses to support young, first time mothers in taking care of their children’s teeth.

The research will address the national crisis in children’s oral health, especially in communities of social deprivation. Dental disease is common in children and the most common reason for children to be admitted to hospital. Children living in the most socially-deprived areas are at highest risk and the most likely to have their teeth removed under general anaesthetic.

The research team is working with the Family Nurse Partnership in Plymouth, who work with first-time young mothers. Family nurses offer intensive, structured home visits by specially-trained nurses, from early pregnancy until the child is two. The programme has worked with more than 200 families in Plymouth since it started in 2008.

The study will develop a way of working that links a dental nurse to the young mothers in the Family Nurse Partnership Programme, offering them support, encouragement and the necessary materials to protect their child’s newly-emerging teeth.

PU PSMD and Wrigley have previously worked together on a number of community oral health projects in Plymouth and the South West, including providing oral health workshops with the charity CHICKS (Country Holidays for Inner City Kids).

Project lead, Professor Elizabeth Kay, Foundation Dean for the Peninsula Dental School, Plymouth University, said: 

“If we are to reverse the national disgrace of around 25,000 young children a year attending hospital to have teeth removed under anaesthetic, we need to work with parents of young children using methods that are shown to work. This project will achieve that, and we are enormously grateful to Wrigley for funding a PhD post for a hygienist or dental therapist to take this important work forward.”
Polly Garland, Communications Manager for Wrigley UK, said: 

“The benefits of a good oral health routine from an early age are clear and we are delighted to work with PU PSMD once again and support their vital research on supporting mothers and families to look after their children’s teeth.”