Investing in exceptional researchers

08 June 2021
2 min read

Two research proposals focusing on the needs of young patients have been awarded grants jointly by the BSPD and the Faculty of Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons (England). One proposal is for research into jaw pain in young people and the other a feasibility study for genetic testing of children with a rare developmental condition.

The two successful BSPD members in 2021 are:

  • Julia Palmer of Newcastle Dental School who was awarded £5,272
  • Armaana Ahmad of UCL Dental Institute, who was awarded £9,297.88

Prominent BSPD member and chair of the FDS Research Committee, Professor Helen Rodd, commented, “We were overwhelmed by the quality of the research proposals this year. The two winning proposals were exceptional in terms of the benefit to patients. Both were ranked highly by five reviewers from different dental specialties.

“These grants don’t just support the research but the individual researchers too who have shown great promise and whose academic careers will benefit from the recognition that such a prestigious grant confers.”

The funding received by Julia will help fund her research into understanding the experience and needs of young people who have temporomandibular disorder (TMD), or jaw pain. There is currently no research relating to adolescent experience of TMD and young people with the condition are managed in the same way as adults.

Julia said, “This is very often a persistent problem which can come and go and can cause pain and discomfort throughout life. An adolescent focus to treatment of TMD should be developed.” She believes that by helping young people understand the condition and how to manage it at an early age, dentists can prevent it becoming a lifelong chronic condition.

Since there has not been any qualitative research among under 18s the pump-priming funding will help her set up focus groups comprised of patients to understand their concerns and needs. She will also undertake qualitative research with dentists in primary and secondary care who treat these adolescent patients and devising a questionnaire to get a picture of how the condition is managed and whether prevalence is increasing.

Julia’s aim ultimately is to devise an intervention to help young people suffering from TMD for whom the condition might otherwise become a lifelong chronic ailment. She has already undertaken an initial service evaluation which she is presenting to the International Association of Dental Research (IADR) meeting next month.

Armaana Ahmad’s proposal is a feasibility study examining genetic investigations for children who have type II dentinogenesis imperfecta (DI).

There are two main types of DI, one is part of a medical condition affecting teeth and bones, osteogenesis imperfecta, better known as brittle bone disease. The other main type manifests as a dental condition featuring discoloured teeth which are weak and prone to fracture.

Her research interest has been inspired by her clinical care of patients who have the inherited condition. Children who appear to have only dental symptoms and no bone symptoms are not currently able to have genetic testing to confirm which type of DI they have.

Armaana said, “The feasibility study has been co-designed with five patients who live with the condition and with their parents. We are making the case for genetic testing of all children who present with DI.  It will help us identify any children who may unknowingly have a mild form of brittle bone disease and also understand how the condition progresses.

“Having heard that I was selected out of many applicants makes me feel very proud of this achievement and very grateful for this opportunity.  It is especially exciting to share the news with the children and parents who co-designed the study as this also reflects the time and effort they put into designing the research.”