Oral health survey needs school support

Dental experts say support from schools is key to the success of the Children’s Dental Health survey, which has been carried out every 10 years since 1973.

More than 1,000 schools and up to 21,000 children will take part in the study which is an essential tool for planning future dental care services.

The survey involves a short dental examination at school with a random sample of children aged five, eight, twelve and fifteen followed by a postal questionnaire for parents/guardians.

An innovation for 2013 is a self-completion questionnaire for 12 and 15-year-olds, allowing children to record their own dental care regime.

Primary and secondary schools (including academies and free schools) will be invited to take part and both state maintained and independent schools will be included in the sample.

Chief dental officer Barry Cockcroft said: ‘Support from dentists, schools, parents and children is vital to the success of this survey. It helps measure changes in oral health and provides information to policy-makers on how best to plan dental services in the future.’

The survey will involve a short dental check-up with a qualified dentist. This will take place at school with a random sample of children and young people aged 5, 8, 12 and 15 and will be followed by a postal questionnaire for their parents or guardians.

Support will be available to guide schools through the survey process. The data collected will be confidential and no school, student or parent will be identifiable.

The results of the survey aid the planning of health services that aim to improve the oral health of all children. The 2003 results showed that the oral health of children has improved greatly since the 1970s and 80s.

The Office for National Statistics will be writing directly to selected schools in the 2013 summer term. The results will be published following the completion of the study.

The study is being carried out on behalf of the Health and Social Care Information Centre with funding provided by the Department of Health in each country. The research consortium is led by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and includes the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) and five University Dental Schools (Birmingham, Cardiff, Newcastle, University College London and Kings College London).

The survey provides information on the dental health of children, measures changes in oral health and provides information on children’s experiences of dental care and treatment and their oral hygiene.

It is designed to complement both the ongoing NHS dental epidemiology programme of schools-based research on the oral health of children, and other sources of data available to planners and commissioners of dental services. The surveyed population will include children attending state and independent primary and secondary schools.

The last survey, in 2003, showed that obvious decay experience in the permanent teeth of 8, 12 and 15-year-old children had decreased significantly since 1983 to its lowest recorded level.


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