Roehampton leads research into improving children's dental care

  • Friday, April 9, 2021
Image - Roehampton leads research into improving children's dental care

Sugarless Green, a research project designed and led by Roehampton's Dr Melissa Jogie from the School of Education, aims to teach primary school children how to look after their teeth and eat healthily by suggesting alternatives to sugar. Funded by Research England QR Strategic Priorities Fund, the project is running in partnership with Roehampton students active within Growhampton and has recruited a number of local primary schools to take part.

The statistics surrounding children's dental care currently make grim reading: over 60,000 school days are missed by children having teeth extracted; in London alone the NHS spends over £7m a year on acute dental care for children, while the British Dental Association has declared tooth decay in young children a national crisis. In the UK, 12% of children have nightmares about their teeth and 18% are stressed about the general appearance of their teeth and smiles (Oral Health Foundation 2020), so it's a problem that affects mental as well as physical health.

Sugarless Green involves training the Growhampton student volunteers to visit schools and run a one-hour programme on oral care for pupils aged 7-11.  Activities include brushing the soil off a carrot and flossing debris out of potato-carved teeth. The sessions educate children about the importance of the vegetables in their diets while explaining how difficult it can be to remove sugar from their teeth, showing for example the challenge of brushing sticky syrup off oranges.

The student volunteers were recruited from across the university including Business and Psychology undergraduates, and all found it an extremely positive experience. One student commented “shockingly about one in three pupils in the class had had teeth extracted  - and these were permanent teeth, not just baby ones”. Another said that red flags were raised when children told him that their first ever visit to the dentist was to have a painful tooth removed. Other indirect rewards for the volunteers included using their participation in the project as inspiration for course assignments, while others commented on the gains from stepping outside of their comfort zone and developing teamwork skills. 

Dr Jogie has successfully secured an additional grant for a summer project called Gardening & Gums, funded by The Cathedrals Group, which involves a knowledge exchange between dentists and parents of children from the local community, which will also be facilitated through Growhampton student volunteers.

Details of all Dr Jogie's research can be found on her website