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Dental Public Health Unit

Whilst oral health has improved dramatically over the past three decades, dental caries (tooth decay) remains a significant public health problem. In common with most chronic health conditions, oral disease correlates closely with social and economic circumstances and inequalities in oral health pose a significant public health problem.

We are involved in a range of research projects which aim to enhance the evidence base for improving oral health and delivering dental care. While our work is based in Wales and we have a particular interest in oral health in the Principality, our collaborations and the outcome of our work is of relevance, locally, nationally and internationally.

We work closely with colleagues in Cardiff and Vale Local Health Board, Public Health Wales and the office of the Chief Dental Officer at Welsh Government. We contribute the oral health workpackage to the Health Care Research Wales funded Centre for Primary and Emergency Care Research (PRIME). We also host the Wales Oral Health Information Unit on behalf of Welsh Government and Public Health Wales.

The application of Prudent Healthcare principles to dentistry is an emerging focus of our work

Our research currently focuses on the following areas:

Preventive dental technologies

The Dental Public Health Unit has a history of conducting clinical trials of preventive dental technologies. Our current major trial is funded by the National Institute for Health Research, Health Technology Assessment Programme. The Seal or Varnish? Trial, is investigating the relative clinical and cost effectiveness of fissure sealants and fluoride varnish in the prevention of occlusal caries in first permanent molars.

View the protocol for the trial.

Oral health improvement

We work closely with the Office of the Chief Dental Officer in Wales on the evaluation of Designed to Smile, a major component of the National Oral Health Improvement Programme.

Designed to Smile is an NHS Dental programme funded by the Welsh  Government helping children to have healthier teeth.

Oral health of older people and vulnerable groups

We have lead the way in undertaking epidemiological surveys in care homes and identified the oral health needs and challenges posed by an ageing population.

Oral health guidelines

The Unit has produced the evidence base to inform the production of NICE public health guidelines.

We have worked to produce the evidence base which has informed NICE guidance on improving oral health in vulnerable populations and in care homes.

Guidance on improving oral health in vulnerable populations.
Guidance on improving oral health in care homes.

Oral epidemiology

We host the Wales Oral Health Information Unit which coordinates the collection, analysis and reporting of oral health data in Wales, on behalf of Welsh Government.

Public health aspects of antimicrobial use in dentistry

Though our links with the Health and Care Research Wales funded, Primary and Emergency Care Centre, we are working on understanding how the appropriate use of antibiotics can be facilitated.


Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, Community Dental Service
We work closely with colleagues in the Community Dental Service in the delivery and evaluation of preventive dental programmes.

Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer)
Scientists from DECIPHer work with us on understanding that acceptability of preventive treatments in the context of preventive dental programmes.

Public Health Wales
The Dental Public Health Unit works closely with colleagues in Public Health Wales to ensure a seamless approach to the translation of research evidence to oral health improvement and service delivery in Wales.

South East Wales Trials Unit (SEWTU)
We collaborate with SEWTU in the conduct of dental clinical trials.

Specialist Unit for Review Evidence (SURE)
We work the Specialist Unit for Review Evidence to produce first class evidence reviews which have informed national public health guidance.

Swansea Centre for Health Economics (SCHE)
We collaborate with SCHE in the economic aspects of our work.

Wales Primary and Emergency Care Research Centre (PRIME)
The Oral and Dental Research Package in the PRIME Centre are lead by the Dental Public Health team.