Study into children's tooth decay underway

Published: 28 May 2009

University of Glasgow researchers are part of UK-wide team looking at dental treatment for children

A multi-million pound research project looking at the different ways tooth decay in children is handled gets underway today (May 27th).

Among the UK-wide research team, is Richard Welbury, Professor of Paediatric Dentistry at the University of Glasgow Dental School.

The £2.87 million study has been commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) programme and will be led by experts of Dundee University.

Dental decay is one of the most common childhood diseases, with over 40 per cent of children in the UK already experiencing obvious decay in their primary (baby) teeth by five years of age. According to experts, this statistic has remained largely unchanged for the past 20 years.

Only 12 per cent of obviously decayed baby teeth in five year olds are treated with fillings, while the vast majority are left untreated. Dental extractions remain the most common reason for children in the UK to receive an out-patient general anaesthetic.

Dr Gail Topping, Dr Nicola Innes and Dr Jan Clarkson, all from the University of Dundee will lead experts from universities in Cardiff, Dundee, Leeds, London, Newcastle and Sheffield.

Professor Welbury explained what the study would look at. “We will be assessing the benefits of three different methods for treating tooth decay in baby teeth with cavities. These are: conventional fillings biological treatment of the decay, that is sealing the decay into teeth with filling materials or under crowns, generally without the need to use injections or dental drills and using only preventive techniques such as better tooth brushing, less sugar in a child’s diet, application of high fluoride varnish and fissure sealants to stop the decay. We will also investigate what children think of the different types of treatments.”

The study will involve children aged three to seven years old, who already have decay in their baby teeth but no toothache or abscesses.

Participating dentists will be from general dental practices throughout the UK where children who attend for regular dental care will be invited to take part.

All children in the trial will be seen by their dentist up to four times per year and checked for any problems which require care. 

To view full details about this project visit

For more information, contact Ray McHugh in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 3535 or email

First published: 28 May 2009

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