Prestigious Cochrane Review published for School of Dental Science


Researchers from the School of Dental Science at Trinity have carried out the first review of the effectiveness of oral hygiene interventions specifically designed for people with intellectual disabilities. The international Cochrane Oral Health Review is the first of its kind to focus on a population with intellectual disabilities.

Cochrane is a global independent network of researchers, professionals, patients, carers and people interested in health. Cochrane produces reviews which study all of the best available evidence generated through research and make it easier to inform decisions about health. These are called systematic reviews.  Cochrane is renowned for their gold-standard systematic reviewing, and important impact.

Worldwide, the oral health of people with intellectual disabilities is poorer than that of the general population. The removal of dental plaque by daily toothbrushing plays a major role in preventing tooth decay and gum disease, the two main causes of tooth loss. Toothbrushing is a skill, it needs to be done regularly and may require special tools; it can be difficult for some people to brush well enough to prevent these oral diseases. People with ID may require help with their toothbrushing and the people who care for them may need training to help them.

The review identified the many different ways used to try and improve the oral hygiene of people with intellectual disabilities. It is important to know if the interventions designed to help people with ID and their carers to perform better oral hygiene are effective.

Principal Investigator, Catherine Waldron PhD, Dublin Dental University Hospital said: “My colleagues and I are honoured to follow in the footsteps of around 100 other Trinity academics who have worked on Cochrane Reviews, and to be authors of the first review produced within Cochrane Oral Health that focuses specifically on people with intellectual disabilities. All in all, we worked on this review for about 4 years, so it is a big commitment, which requires perseverance and determination to see it through. Publication of the review, though, is really just the beginning. Now we know what evidence is out there and where the gaps are, we want to see focused, high-quality primary research plug the gaps in our knowledge and improve our level of certainty in the effectiveness of promising interventions. Finally we want to see that evidence translated into practice so that people with intellectual disabilities will have better oral health – and better quality of life.”

The Cochrane Review carried out by the researchers from the School of Dentistry will have a real-world impact as it now provides guidance to researchers in relation to what needs to be considered when designing and reporting future oral hygiene interventions for people with ID to ensure success. This Cochrane Review will be updated regularly to include any new research thus providing oral healthcare professionals, people with intellectual disabilities and their carers with a resource to guide their decision making in relation to good oral hygiene habits.

The team from the School of Dentistry included:  Dr Catherine Waldron, Professor June Nunn, Dr Caoimhin Mac Giolla Phadraig, Dr Maria Theresa van Harten and Dr Erica Donnelly-Swift. Other team members were Prof. Catherine Comiskey (School of Nursing and Midwifery, TCD), Dr Suzanne Guerin (School of Psychology, University College Dublin) and Prof Mike Clarke (Centre for Public Health, Queen’s University Belfast).

The review can be accessed here:

The Cochrane Group

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