Dental public health

Dental public health research

Explore our work in dental public health

Dental public health research involves looking at how clinicians work with patients from different demographics, to promote oral health and prevent disease. This can affect quality of life, lead to poor school attendance, difficulties in speech and eating problems.

Our research focuses on monitoring and improving oral health. We seek to understand how clinicians work with patients from different demographics to promote oral health and prevent diseases. Our research also investigates barriers to dental care to ensure high quality dentistry is available to all.

We explore issues around health promotion and intervention in early years and primary schools, and the impact on children's oral health. We also investigate whether outreach dental care can make a positive impact on tackling inequality, lack of dental care and poor diet. 

Our research covers the following topics

  • Oral health promotion
  • Oral health inequalities
  • Dental technology
  • Oral disease
  • Dental services

Methods and facilities

Our research uses a mix of qualitative and quantitative techniques, including surveys, interviews and focus groups. We also engage in big data research, using existing routine data sets to monitor patient profiles and model different health care delivery.

Dental public health research is patient and community facing. We have a large data warehouse of patient profiles and activity, which provides invaluable data for our research. Our dental students deliver quality comprehensive oral and dental health care in our Dental Clinics to around 3,000 local people every year.

Our research informs our undergraduate and postgraduate research degree programmes.

Speaking to families about children's oral health

Explore family responses to dental research

We asked family groups about their understanding of children's oral health and dental research in collaboration with the Solent Academy of Research and Improvement, and the National Institute for Health Research. Watch their feedback and experiences, and their opinions on oral health research activities. 

[Families talk oral health and research]

Dr Kristina Wanyonyi: This project was a collaboration between the University of Portsmouth, Dental Academy and Solent Academy of Research. The aim of this project was to talk with families about their oral health and how to engage them in oral health research. This was informed by the recently concluded James Lindh Alliance Priority Setting Exercise. 

Sally Shillaker: Today we've engaged with parents of young children to find out from them what they understand by what oral health means. 

Speaker 1: I brush his teeth and obviously mine as well. Morning and night time. 

Speaker 2: He doesn't eat sweets or anything sugary stuff like, I try to give him, he is a health freak - what I call you a health freak and he, he loves fruit. So he's forever eating fruit.

Speaker 3: He's getting quite independent now, so he wants to do it himself and sometimes he refuses to have it done, so it's a struggle to get him to brush his teeth, but we do get there. 

Speaker 3: Yeah, they don't rinse their teeth, I've got two boys, they don't rinse.

Speaker 2: No I've not had that, no. 

Speaker 1: No. See with him, I can't do that. He'll brush them. Then he has a go because he's learning himself now, but he will – if you – after you give him some water, he'll just drink it. He won't spit. 

Speaker 2: No, no. 

Speaker 3: No. 

Speaker 1: Yeah, cause my health visitor told me only the littlest bit on the tooth brush. Yeah, he went about 10, just after 10 months I think he was so it was before he was 1. 

Speaker 3: I was always told it was just when they got teeth. 

Speaker 1: He's been having it, since the first one appeared I've just started brushing them. 

Sally Shillaker: We've also asked participants what they think about oral health research, what they know about it, whether they've ever taken part. 

Speaker 2: I've heard, they do, yeah, they do, do research but I've never been involved personally. No, no. 

Speaker 3: I haven't had any interviews but my eldest son is 5 he goes to school, he's in year one now. He's in a dental study at school so he brushes his teeth at lunchtime that's all. I think we get sent a survey as well. 

Speaker 1: I don't know actually I think they, they did a thing at Northern Parade once, I don't think, I can't remember what it was about now. It was some research thing they were doing. 

Speaker 2: Possibly depends if you've got to go to places and things like that. I'm not very good at getting out and about really, I prefer, I am very busy, I'm always busy like 24/7 really so it's just finding the time.

Speaker 1: I suppose everyone's different now aren't they.

Research projects

  • Making connections: digital health literacy training for homelessness hub volunteers in Portsmouth

    Led by Dr Carolina Machuca Vargas, funded by the Clinical Research Network (CRN) Wessex. This project aims to investigate the acceptability and effectiveness of a digital health literacy training on homeless hub volunteers in Portsmouth.

  • A Pilot Project to explore the perceptions of Homeless People before and after attending a Dental Walk-in-Clinic intervention by the University of Portsmouth Dental Academy

    Led by Mrs Janani Sivabalan, funded by the Oral and Dental Research Trust-Robin Davis Award. The aim of this pilot study is to proactively reach homeless individuals who require oral health services, but struggle to access mainstream provision in a dental surgery setting. This study investigates the acceptability, feasibility and sustainability of a Dental Walk-In-Clinic for people experiencing homelessness.

  • Is the University of Portsmouth Dental Academy a Dementia Friendly Environment?

    Led by Dr Carolina Machuca Vargas, funded by the Clinical Research Network (CRN) Wessex. This study aims to investigate how to create dementia-friendly environments in the local context of the University of Portsmouth Dental Academy (UPDA). Findings from this study will be used to inform the development of a local guide for the management of people with dementia.

Publication highlights

Our members

Carolina Angelica Machuca Vargas Portrait

Dr Carolina Machuca Vargas

Associate Head (Research and Innovation)

Dental Academy

Faculty of Science and Health

PhD Supervisor

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Discover our areas of expertise

Dental public health is one of our areas of research expertise in Dental and Oral Health – explore the others below.

Dental education

We're focusing on the development and evaluation of education for the dental team, and working to develop new operative and learning tools for dentistry.
Dental students working on a phantom head
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Clinical innovation

We're conducting studies that consider and test advanced clinical and diagnostic techniques, efficient models of clinical care, and novel clinical materials.
Flouride varnish being applied to a test card
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Interested in a PhD in Dental and Oral Health?

Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Dental and Oral Health postgraduate research degrees page.