Imperial College London Featured PhD Programmes
Imperial College London Featured PhD Programmes
De Montfort University Featured PhD Programmes

Developing and evaluating a primary care navigation intervention for children and young people who have dental pain

   Institute of Dentistry

   Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project


A significant proportion of children still suffer from dental problems that cause acute pain despite massive improvements in children’s oral health in the UK [1]. The 2013 UK Children’s Dental Health Survey found that 37% of five year-olds and more than half (55%) of eight year-olds in the UK had a dental problem in the past six months [2]. Toothache is the most common cause of dental problems and one of the most serious impacts of untreated dental caries (tooth decay) [3].

Our recent research collaboration with NHS England and Healthy London Partnership studied nearly 7000 parents who were seeking over-the-counter pain medications or collecting pain prescriptions for their children from community pharmacies in London. This study found that 65% of parents were primarily seeking pain relief for their children’s toothache [4]. While only 30% of the children had seen a dentist before their pharmacy visit, more than a quarter (28%) of children had seen several different primary care professionals including GPs, health visitors and school nurses. Reducing these inappropriate and multiple health contacts could have significant NHS cost savings. Our research also demonstrated the clear need for further research to understand why parents contact other health professionals first rather than dentists when their children have dental pain. We also need to address other knowledge gaps related to what dentists and other health professionals do when they encounter children with dental problems to ensure that there are clear, consistent pathways for parents and primary care health professionals.


This mixed-methods (qualitative and quantitative research methodologies) PhD aims to:
1) Review the evidence base on care navigation models for children with acute conditions
2) Increase our understanding of how parents make decisions about seeking healthcare when their children have dental problems
3) Explore the organisational and individual barriers and facilitators for primary care health professionals when they encounter parents and children with dental pain
4) Assess dentists’ knowledge, skills and professional self-efficacy in managing children with acute dental pain

This information will be used to develop and pilot a primary care navigation intervention to support children with dental pain to receive appropriate and timely dental treatment.

How to apply:

For more information regarding the project, please contact Dr Vanessa Muirhead ()

Applications should be submitted through the Queen Mary application system. Please indicate the project title and supervisor in the ‘Research Degree Programmes - Additional Questions’ section of the application.

Alongside the application form, please send the following supporting documents:
• Curriculum Vitae (CV)
• Copies of your degree certificates with transcripts
• Proof of English language ability for overseas applicants from non-English speaking countries
• A one-side A4 statement of purpose. This should set out your previous academic or other experience relevant to the proposed research; why you wish to undertake this research at QMUL; your previous research or professional training and what further training you think you will need to complete a PhD; and what ethical issues you will need to consider in undertaking this research.
• Two references. At least one reference must be from an academic referee who is in a position to comment on the standard of your academic work and suitability for postgraduate level study. Where appropriate, a second referee can provide comment on your professional experience.

Please contact with any queries about the application process.

Funding Notes

We will consider applications from prospective students with a source of funding to cover tuition fees and bench fees. Both self-funded and sponsored students will be considered.

Person specification:
• A good public health, health psychology or behavioural science degree (minimum of a 2:1) and a relevant Master’s degree or an equivalent professional qualification.


1. Milsom, K.M., M. Tickle, and A.S. Blinkhorn, Dental pain and dental treatment of young children attending the general dental service. British Dental Journal, 2002. 192: p. 280.
2. Tsakos, G., et al., Children's Dental Health Survey 2013 Report 1: Attitudes, Behaviours and Children's Dental Health England, Wales and Northern Ireland 2013. 2015, Health and Social Care Information Centre.
3. Currie, C.C., et al., Dental pain in the medical emergency department: a cross-sectional study. Journal of Oral Rehabilitation, 2017. 44(2): p. 105-111.
4. Muirhead, V.E., et al., Children's toothache is becoming everybody's business: where do parents go when their children have oral pain in London, England? A cross-sectional analysis. BMJ Open, 2018. 8(2): p. e020771.

Email Now

Search Suggestions
Search suggestions

Based on your current searches we recommend the following search filters.