Seen but not heard: a systematic review of the place of the child in 21st-century dental research

Int J Paediatr Dent. 2007 Sep;17(5):320-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-263X.2007.00845.x.


Background: The position of children in society has changed with increasing emphasis on children's rights and child-centred services. This study aimed to describe the extent to which contemporary oral health research has been conducted with or on children.

Design: A systematic review of the child dental literature from 2000-2005 was conducted. A purposive sample was used to develop categories describing the level of involvement of children in research. Four main categories were developed: children as the objects of research, proxies used on behalf of children, children as the subjects of research with some involvement and children as active participants with their perspectives explored. Electronic databases were searched and exclusion criteria applied. Each of the resulting papers was examined and categorised. The frequency distribution in each category and the distribution of these categories according to subject were calculated.

Results: The search revealed 3266 papers after application of the exclusion criteria. Of these, 87.1% were categorised as research where children were used as objects, 5.7% were found to involve proxies (parents or clinicians), 7.0% involved children to some extent and 0.3% involved children actively.

Conclusion: Most oral health research is conducted on children, in future research should strive to be conducted with children, involving them as fully as possible.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Child*
  • Dental Research / classification*
  • Dental Research / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Patient Participation
  • Pediatric Dentistry / classification
  • Research Design