New dental research centre set up in Singapore
SINGAPORE: Though it is a relatively wealthy nation, Singapore’s overall level of oral health leaves much to be desired. Nearly a third (31%) of the population above the age of 60 is completely edentulous, according to a 2016 study, and 40% of children aged 3–6 are reported to suffer from dental caries. In response to this, a new dental research institute has recently opened in Singapore.
The National Dental Research Institute of Singapore (NDRIS) was officially opened on 4 November by the National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS) and the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre. The NDRIS will aim to promote oral health research in Asia and use scientific findings to inform local and regional programmes and initiatives. Its areas of focus will be orofacial innovation, population oral health and the oral microbiome, according to the institute.
Prof. Goh Bee Tin, Deputy Director for Research and Education and a senior consultant in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the NDCS, said that a laissez-faire attitude to dental check-ups was one of the key drivers of poor oral health in Singapore.
“The issue here is that most people go to the dentist only when there is a problem, such as a toothache. By then it’s already too late,” Goh told the Straits Times. She added that the older generation “may think that extraction is the only way to treat or get rid of dental diseases and that it is inevitable that your teeth will decay and have to be extracted as you become older, but it’s not true”.
As part of its focus on the oral microbiome, the NDRIS will study the microbiota in the mouths of elderly patients to analyse how they differ from those of their younger counterparts. In addition, it plans to conduct mass surveys in order to better understand the oral hygiene habits of Singapore’s population. It aims to improve the country’s oral health through an emphasis on research, public education and policy advising.
One project that the NDRIS is already working on is a microneedle patch that is designed to replace the conventional needles used to administer anaesthesia during dental procedures. The microneedle is intended to work by creating small holes in the gingiva, through which anaesthesia can be delivered to the nerves that supply sensation to the teeth.
The microneedle patch is currently scheduled to reach the market by the end of 2023.