Peggy van Spreuwel graduated in 2008 as a dental hygienist at the department of oral health care at the Utrecht University of Applied Science. She went back to university to study Health Science at VU University Amsterdam after two years of working in the dental field. After obtaining her Master’s degree she starts working at the Utrecht University of Applied Science. First as a lecture with only a few hours to prepare a PhD trajectory and since 2017 full time as researcher.
It took her about two years to prepare this PhD trajectory. During this period Peggy has been working on a thorough research protocol, networking, exploratory research with students within the research line “innovations in early signaling and screening”, the evaluation of a pilot project with an oral health coach at a well-baby clinic in Culemborg and grantwriting. After two years of preparations, things suddenly went very fast and in December 2016 hard work paid off with a grant from SIA RAAK publiek and in April 2017 a grant from NWO. April 1st 2017 she officially started her PhD called “Toddler Oral Health Project” which is part of the new researchgroup “Innovations in Preventive Care”.
The PhD trajectory of Peggy is in line with the social need to reduce caries in Dutch children. Poor oral health of young children has received a lot of media attention for quite some time. More than 40% of Dutch 5-year-olds have caries and an estimated 10% suffer from severe caries, with pain, inflammation and abscesses having serious consequences for daily functioning. Severe caries can lead to problems with general health, socialization, reduced quality of life and is often a strong predictor of oral health later in life. In the Netherlands, dental care for children is fully insured. The first contact with an oral health professional is recommended at age of two. However, only 35% of the Dutch 3-year children ever visited a dentist. Up to the age of two, information about oral health is mainly given at well-baby clinics within the general care promotion. With a coverage of >95% of the Dutch children, including children from lower social economic classes and ethnic minorities, they are important in establishing healthy behaviors. Nevertheless, the time available for oral health promotion and timely referral to a dental clinic is very limited and is regularly overlooked as a result of prioritizing other child health issues. This results in ignorance in parents regarding their children’s oral health. Most children are seen in dental clinics only at higher age for management of caries that might exist for considerable time. Sadly, the Netherlands is not an exception here. Worldwide it is difficult to reach parents with young children in time for preventive oral health care. Thereby important health gains are being missed.
In order to break this undesirable pattern, a prevention program with oral health coaches at well-baby clinics is started in the Toddler Oral Health project. Our intervention aims on the development of healthy behaviors from the early start (first tooth eruption), before bad oral and dietary habits are introduced. The selected well-baby clinics are situated in areas with high density of lower social economic classes in order to reach children most in need of oral health promotion. The effects of this will be evaluated among 400 children.
The research team consists of: Prof. dr. Geert van der Heijden (Social Dentistry, ACTA (VU and UVA)), Prof. dr. Dr. Cor van Loveren (Preventive Dentistry, ACTA (VU and UVA)) and Lector Dr Katarina Jerković-Ćosić from the Hogeschool Utrecht.
This research is carried out in collaboration with: InHolland University of Applied Science and municipal Health Service of Utrecht, Amsterdam, Culemborg, Tiel, Den Bosch and Tilburg. The project is co-financed and supported by the Dutch Ivory Cross, Oral B, the Royal Dutch Society for the Promotion of Dentistry (KNMT), the Dutch Association of Dental Hygienists (NVM dental hygienists) and the Dutch Association for Pediatric Dentistry (NVvK).
In addition to her doctoral research, Peggy will also assist students in the graduation phase with research related to oral care for children.