Dental caries is one of the most common diseases affecting children in Saudi Arabia despite the availability of free dental services. School-based dental screening could be a potential intervention that impacts uptake of dental services, and subsequently, dental caries’ levels. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of two alternative approaches for school-based dental screening in promoting dental attendance and reducing untreated dental caries among primary schoolchildren.
This is a cluster randomised controlled trial comparing referral of screened-positive children to a specific treatment facility (King Saud University Dental College) against conventional referral (information letter advising parents to take their child to a dentist). A thousand and ten children in 16 schools in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, will be recruited for the trial. Schools (clusters) will be randomly selected and allocated to either group. Clinical assessment for dental caries will be conducted at baseline and after 12 months by dentists using the World Health Organisation (WHO) criteria. Data on sociodemographic, behavioural factors and children’s dental visits will be collected through structured questionnaires at baseline and follow-up. The primary outcome is the change in number of teeth with untreated dental caries 12 months after referral. Secondary outcomes are the changes in the proportions of children having untreated caries and of those who visited the dentist over the trial period.
This project should provide high level of evidence on the clinical benefits of school dental screening. The findings should potentially inform policies related to the continuation/implementation of school-based dental screening in Saudi Arabia.