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SDCEP endeavours to use a methodology for guidance development that reflects that used to develop high quality guidelines. It aims to be transparent, systematic and to adhere as far as possible to international standards set out by the Appraisal of Guidelines Research and Evaluation (AGREE) Collaboration.

Within many areas of dentistry there is a lack of the type of high-quality scientific evidence that usually informs the recommendations within conventional clinical guidelines. Despite this, there is some research evidence and a wealth of expertise and specialist knowledge within dentistry upon which to draw in order to make recommendations. In other areas, documentation, including legislation, policies and guidelines, is not in a readily accessible format for dental teams. A key aim of SDCEP is to evaluate the best available information that is relevant to dentistry and to translate it into a form that members of the dental profession will be able to interpret easily and implement.

For the initial phase of the Programme, the National Dental Advisory Committee (NDAC) identified seven priority areas as topics for guidance development. Subsequent topics for guidance development have been proposed by other stakeholders, including members of the general dental profession in Scotland. Preliminary scoping work is carried out by the Programme Development Team to assess the feasibility of the proposed topic and to ensure it addresses a specific dental healthcare need. The decision to progress a topic proposal to full guidance development is taken jointly by the Programme Development Team and the Steering Group.

For each guidance topic, a guidance development group of dental professionals with particular interest or experience in that area of dentistry is convened to develop and write the guidance, assisted by the Programme Development Team. Comprehensive electronic database searches are used to find guidelines, policy documents, legislation or other recommendations and systematic reviews, which are then appraised for their methodological quality, evidence base and applicability to the remit of the guidance under development. In the absence of these documents or when supplementary information is required, other published literature and unpublished work may be sought. Eligible articles identified by the literature search are used to inform the recommendations made by the guidance development group. Where authoritative evidence is not available, the guidance development group may decide to make recommendations based on expert opinion.

A preliminary draft of the guidance is made available to all members of the dental profession for comment during the consultation process. Following completion of the consultation period, all comments are reviewed and considered to inform further development of the guidance prior to peer review and publication. All guidance publications, with the exception of the Practice Support Manual, are reviewed five years after publication to assess the need for updating. The Practice Support Manual is constantly reviewed to ensure it provides the most up-to-date information for the dental team.

The guidance development process is described in more detail in SDCEP’s Guidance Development Process Manual (PDF). Any changes to the process, which may occur periodically, are documented in the process manual. In May 2018, SDCEP extended the standard guidance review period from three to five years. This more realistically reflects the expected frequency of significant changes to the evidence base and will facilitate the maintenance of existing guidance publications and the development of new guidance. The process for ad-hoc guidance updates remains unchanged. SDCEP’s NICE Accreditation status (see below) is unaffected by this change to the guidance development process. Contact us for further information.

Recognising that publication of guidance alone is likely to have a limited influence on practice, SDCEP also contributes to the research and development of interventions to enhance the translation of guidance recommendations into practice through its participation in the TRiaDS (Translation Research in a Dental Setting) collaboration.

NICE accreditation

NICE has accredited the process used by the Scottish Dental Clinical Effectiveness Programme to produce Dental Clinical Guidance. Accreditation is valid until 15 March 2026 and is applicable to guidance produced using the processes described in the Guidance Development Process Manual (PDF). More details about NICE accreditation of SDCEP guidance can be viewed at NICE Accreditation.

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