A Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) led project that aims to reduce tooth decay by developing a new strategy to improve nutrition in early childhood has secured federal funding.

MCRI'S Dr Mihiri Silva has secured a Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) grant that will look at how poor diet and sugar and bacteria in the mouth causes tooth decay to deliver urgently needed intervention changes to improve childhood oral health.

Tooth decay is the most common oral health disease worldwide, affecting more than a third of Australian children about to start school.

The Infant2Child project will integrate oral health promotion into an already established early life dietary and feeding intervention, INFANT, that has been shown to improve eating habits in children across Victoria. The research team will then evaluate the impact of the modified program on dental health outcomes at preschool age.

Dr Silva, also a senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne's Melbourne Dental School, said tooth decay was almost entirely preventable.

"Dietary and dental habits are established early in life, particularly during the first 2000 days – a unique, time-limited opportunity for early intervention," she said.

"By repurposing an already successful intervention this study will deliver an urgently needed preventive strategy to improve oral health of all pre-schoolers, and also help us develop additional ways to target children with the greatest likelihood of developing tooth decay."

The $1.3 million grant was announced under the Maternal Health and the First 2000 Days; Exercise and Nutrition; Early Childhood MRFF scheme.

Participating project institutions also include the University of Melbourne, Deakin University, Dental Health Services Victoria, LaTrobe University and the University of Sydney.