Thursday, August 25, 2022

The longitudinal Iowa Fluoride Study, which began in 1991, has gathered copious amounts of data about the amounts and sources of fluoride from birth to age 23 to better understand the relationships between fluoride and oral health. This information has been used by state and national agencies to make recommendations on fluoride use.  However, the Iowa Fluoride Study also collected data on a number of other factors related to oral health, including oral health-related quality of life.

Oral-health related quality of life is a concept that takes as its starting point an individual’s subjective evaluation of their oral health, including how well they are functioning, their emotional well-being, their sense of self, and their satisfaction with their oral health care. This construct is one way of approaching the reality that oral health affects overall health insofar as it can affect how individuals grow, look, speak, chew, or relate to others.

Assessing oral-health related quality of life can also help dentists tailor their care specifically to the needs of the patients). Despite this, there have been few longitudinal studies of factors related to oral-health related quality of life through young adulthood and no trajectory studies aimed at understanding patterns among this population.

Steve Levy
Steven Levy

Drawing from the vast amount of data in the Iowa Fluoride Study, Steven Levy, the Wright-Bush-Shreves Professor of Research in the Department of Preventive and Community Dentistry, and his research team will use machine-learning algorithms to identify patterns and trajectories associated with improved oral-health related quality of life from early adolescence to early adulthood.

The National Institutes of Health awarded the team a $325K grant to support the project.

Like the Iowa Fluoride Study before it, information gleaned from this study will provide foundational knowledge contributing to enhanced evidence-based dental care for adolescent and early adult populations.   As a result, future oral health care will better utilize available resources by being more patient-centered, having improved outcomes, and having reduced disparities, reduced costs, and improved patient satisfaction.

The research team includes Steven Levy and co-investigators John Warren, professor in the Department of Preventive and Community Dentistry, Erliang Zeng, associate professor in the Iowa Institute for Oral Health Research, Grant Brown, associate professor of Biostatistics in the College of Public Health, and former UI College of Dentistry doctoral student, Dr. Ebuka Ogwo, now a research assistant professor in the Department of Oral Health Sciences at the Temple University Kornberg School of Dentistry.