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Fully Funded PhD: Optimising family toothbrushing behaviours in the home in the early years in Scotland: developing and evaluating a community based intervention

Project Description

Despite recent improvements, dental decay remains highly prevalent among Scotland’s children with wide inequalities: a quarter of children from the poorest areas suffer decay by 3 years, rising to 50% by 5 years, with extractions of teeth under general anaesthetic being the most common reason children are electively admitted to hospital. Childsmile ( has been responsible for the marked improvements observed in oral health in Scottish children in the last decade, with substantial cost savings to the NHS, mainly through the nursery and school toothbrushing programmes.

However as stated above, many children already have dental decay by the time they enter nursery school at 3 years of age, by which time the opportunity to keep children caries free has passed. There is clear evidence that twice-daily toothbrushing with fluoride toothpaste helps to reduce the risk of caries, and in the early years, prior to formal education, this should be supervised by parents within the home-setting, and is supported by national clinical guidelines.

A recent theory-based intervention in the Netherlands (Uitblinkers) has been developed to encourage and promote parental supervised toothbrushing in young children. The intervention is based around social learning theories and parenting techniques, and is delivered by members of the dental team in practice using brightly illustrated cards. Feasibility testing is underway across The Netherlands with dental therapists delivering the intervention.

In Scotland, Dental Health Support Workers (DHSWs) are lay health workers (employed within the Childsmile programme) who work closely with health visitors to identify families with young children who may need additional support with oral health and accessing dental services. This support is tailored to the family’s needs and may involve a single home visit where the family is linked to a dental practice immediately, or more frequent, intensive home visits where toothbrushing and healthy diet are promoted, until the family are ready to be linked with a general dental practice for ongoing prevention. Currently there is wide variation in how DHSWs are supporting such families and evidence-based resources/ toolkits to support behaviour change within the whole family are lacking.

To improve parental-supervised toothbrushing in the home of children aged 0-3 years, and support positive behaviours within the family.

This project will further develop the Uitblinkers intervention from a theoretical perspective, and adapt and test it for delivery by Dental Health Support Workers working with more vulnerable families in their homes across Scotland.

This project will involve collaboration with dental public health colleagues in the Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam (ACTA), The Netherlands, who developed the original intervention, and is funded by Glaxo Smith Kline, UK.

The successful candidate will be based within Glasgow University Dental School, and will work closely with Childsmile’s Central Evaluation and Research Team, responsible for the evaluation of the entire Childsmile programme to date. Glasgow University Dental School hosts a vibrant group of around 20 PhD students, and the MVLS college provides a programme of research skills training courses, ensuring our postgraduates are equipped with the necessary attributes on graduation.

Funding Notes

Fully funded PhD - fees plus stipend at RCUK rates for 3.5 years plus bench fees

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

How good is research at University of Glasgow in Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 13.80

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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