Protocol for the Polar Bear Study: A Feasibility and acceptability study of an electronic training and toolkit to support dental practitioner’s behaviour change conversations with parents of children at risk of dental caries.

Research output: Other contributionpeer-review


BACKGROUND: In the UK, the most common reason for children to go to hospital is to have decayed teeth removed under general anaesthetic. This is risky for children and expensive for the NHS. Tooth decay is painful, upsetting, and disrupts eating and sleep. Good oral health habits (regular tooth-brushing and consuming less sugar) prevent tooth decay. Parents want help with making these changes but dental practitioners worry about offending patients, are unsure how to help families make changes and often avoid initiating conversations about health behaviours. When they do, the strategies they use are often not evidence-based. A clear training need exists around developing behaviour change skills for dentistry. METHODS/ DESIGN: We used relevant theory (COM-B model), the Behaviour Change Technique Taxonomy, published data and PPI co- production to create an online training programme (POLAR training and toolkit) that is relevant for conversations with parents about reducing child tooth decay. This will be evaluated in 10 dental practices in Greater Manchester. The study design is a mixed-methods feasibility randomised control trial (RCT). A quantitative study will explore the feasibility of the procedures for randomisation, control, recruitment, and collection of outcome measures (changes in motivation and skills around behaviour change for practitioners; changes in Decayed Missing & Filled Teeth (DMFT) scores, treatments including hospital referrals for tooth extractions in children). A nested qualitative study will investigate acceptability and mechanisms of change. DISCUSSION: POLAR is online and potentially easy to access and deliver: it could be easily up-scaled and rolled out if evidence of effectiveness is found. Potential benefits for children include reduced pain, sleeplessness, difficulties eating, school-readiness, literacy and social development. Changes to health behaviours such as reduced sugar consumption will benefit other health problems such as obesity, malnourishment and associated morbidity. Benefits could be conferred to parents and other members of the household. Reduced dental decay in children will reduce the need for dental extractions under general anesthetics which is currently a huge burden on NHS costs and resources.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
TypeOpen-Science Publication
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2020