16 November 2020

School of Clinical Dentistry lends their expertise to improve the oral health of children

Sheffield academics at the School of Clinical Dentistry are collaborators in an important Australian research funded by the Australian Research Council.

Sheffield academics at the School of Clinical Dentistry are collaborators in an important Australian research funded by the Australian Research Council, lending their expertise in a study that will provide new information that can be applied to improve the oral health of children globally.

The study, “Social practices of oral health in Australian preschool children”, brings together academics Professor Linda Slack-Smith; Associate Professor Daniel McAullay; Professor Paul Ward; Professor Hanny Calache, Professor Barry Gibson and Professor Sarah Baker.

Professor Sarah Baker
Professor Sarah Baker

The aim of the study is to explore "social practices" of oral health in Australian Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal preschool children. This emerging theory will be used to move away from focusing on individuals and individual behaviour (and blame), to identify and map social practices: actions, materials and meanings families attribute to child’s oral health. 

Expected project outcomes include identifying practices promoting or undermining children’s oral health, that can inform upstream and downstream policy directions and practices to improve health outcomes. This offers a new approach to "wicked" problems such as oral health, where extensive effort has not reduced morbidity and cost despite rhetoric that oral health is preventable.

Professor Barry Gibson, Professor in Medical Sociology at the School of Clinical Dentistry, explains: “The research involves using exciting new developments in social theory to better understand the pathways between downstream and upstream factors impacting on Aboriginal pre-school children's oral health.”