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Speech by Assoc Prof Chng Chai Kiat, Chief Dental Officer, MOH, at Joint 37th Annual Scientific Meeting, IADR Southeast Asia, 23 Nov

Professor May Wong, President of the International Association for Dental Research-Southeast Asian Division Council,

Clinical Associate Professor Goh Bee Tin, Chief Executive Officer, National Dental Centre Singapore,

Distinguished guests, 

Ladies and gentlemen, 

Good morning.

1. I am pleased to join you this morning at the opening of the Joint 37th International Association for Dental Research (IADR)-Southeast Asian (SEA) Annual Scientific Meeting and the 2nd International Oral Health Symposium. I am delighted that esteemed guests hail from around the world, including Australia, Japan and Sweden, joining us in Singapore after the last IADR meeting was held here more than two decades ago. 

2. The theme for this year’s meeting is “Applying Oral Research Excellence to Advocate Oral Health for All”. It aptly sets the stage in facilitating discussions around research, innovation and developments in oral health. At the same time, opportunities to foster greater international collaborations and exchanges will also be made possible. The meeting provides a vibrant space for aspiring and up-and-coming scientists to share ideas, as well as explore technological advancements that would shape the future of oral health.

3. Over the next few days, delegates can look forward to an exciting line-up of 60 local and international speakers discussing cutting-edge technologies, artificial intelligence (AI), digital dentistry, biomaterials, orofacial devices, therapeutics, population health, and a lot more. 

Burden of Oral Diseases

4. Oral diseases are among the most prevalent globally, affecting 3.5 billion people around the world and imposing a substantial economic burden on society. The economic burden includes direct costs such as treatment expenditure, as well as indirect costs from lowered productivity due to absence from work and school. 

5. Oral diseases can also greatly reduce the quality of life for those affected. In Singapore, the 2019/2020 National Adult Oral Health Survey found a high prevalence of periodontitis and untreated dental caries which increased with age. In that same survey, close to 85% of the community-dwelling adults had 21 or more natural teeth. However, this decreases with age with about 35% of those aged 65 years and older have 21 or more natural teeth, and the prevalence of denture wearing was 50% for this age group.

Applying Oral Research Excellence to Advocate Oral Health for All

6. Oral health surveillance studies are crucial in providing quality data to enable effective policymaking and health system planning. Research helps us to further identify critical gaps in oral diseases and trends. This includes knowledge about their aetiology, impact, treatment, treatment needs, priorities and management. Plugging these gaps through research helps to improve our health as a whole, while serving as a key driver for innovation in the delivery of quality oral care.

7. Scientific meetings such as the IADR give us an opportunity for oral health professionals and researchers to come together to exchange ideas, thus enabling the development of collaborations that could revolutionise dentistry and oral care for the future.

Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology Journal

8. One of the key topics that will be discussed at the meeting is population health. The rapid ageing of the population is an issue faced by many countries, including Singapore.

9. The Ministry of Health has embarked on a major reform of our healthcare system through the launch of Healthier SG. This initiative aims to nurture an ecosystem that focuses on preventive care and the preservation of health in our population. Preventive care also contributes to good oral health.

10. Population oral health studies play important roles in assisting the government to have a clearer picture of how Singaporeans across generations respond to various interventions. Research data on health systems, health economics, workforce models and digital technologies will aid in better responding to our population’s oral health needs. 

11. One significant research project in population health studies that will be launched in Singapore is the special edition Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology Journal  (CDOE) on Singapore’s population oral health in the last 50 years. Many of you might have had a glimpse of it when the overview of its contents and the importance of the issue for Singapore and the region was presented at yesterday’s session. 

12. This special edition has 12 articles discussing the oral health trajectory of Singapore, its development over the generations, and how it has been influenced by the nation’s social, economic and political development over the past 50 years. The official launch of this special edition will take place at the main IADR event in New Orleans, United States in 2024.

New Research Developments

13. I would also like to take this opportunity to highlight some interesting research work in Singapore. One study that demonstrates the integration of oral health research with the mainstream public health research is an SG70 cohort study titled “Towards Healthy Longevity”. This was led by the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and Faculty of Arts and Social Science, both under the National University of Singapore. This study will examine the effects of biological, lifestyle and socioeconomic factors that prevent people from ageing healthily and productively. The oral health research component aims to investigate the relationship between oral health and the general health of older people. The team aims for a representative sample of 3,000 Singaporeans aged 70 years and older, whom will be followed up for the next 10 to 15 years.
14. Another interesting innovation to address the oral needs of an ageing population is the ongoing development of a clinically integrated workflow to improve the quality and efficiency in producing removable partial dentures. This research proposal, led by SingHealth-Duke NUS Medical School, involves the use of novel digital dentistry solutions such as 3D dental prosthesis printing, biomaterials and regenerative dentistry, and would benefit older people even beyond our shores. 

Industry Collaboration in Translational Oral Research 

15. Much has been said about the importance of the research community partnering with the industry, and there is a need to leverage each other’s expertise to translate science into practical applications.

16. An example of this is the development of an antiseptic mouth rinse with anti-viral properties. The study by National Dental Centre Singapore originated during the COVID-19 pandemic to examine the efficacy of mouth rinses in reducing the salivary SARS-CoV-2 levels and this has recently led to a successful partnership with a homegrown oral care brand. 

17. The translational research is a sterling example of a collaboration that harnesses the best know-how from both sides – expertise in oral health research and deep industry knowledge and experience to formulate a unique mouth rinse that will benefit the wider public. 


18. The IADR event provides a multidisciplinary platform for the exchange of ideas, networking, and partnerships. It is also an excellent opportunity for the new generation of oral health scientists to connect and learn.

19. I wish everyone a productive and inspiring meeting. I hope that you will push the boundaries, explore new frontiers in oral health research, uncover realms to revolutionise the field of dentistry, and ultimately help integrate oral and overall health. 

20. And with that, I thank you and bid you a good day.

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