The University of Iowa was one of four research institutions, along with Michigan, Duke, and Indiana, collaborating on a newly-funded grant investigating the causes and implications of adolescent tooth decay, especially among underserved populations..
Thursday, June 15, 2023

Steve Levy
Steven Levy

Building on extensive past collaboration among these four institutions in longitudinal caries research, the University of Michigan, the University of Iowa, Duke University, and Indiana University are extending and expanding their longitudinal study about the causes, impact, and prediction of tooth decay for a cohort of children studied from age 1 to 9.5 years to now focus on this same cohort of children as they enter adolescence.

The adolescent age group largely has been neglected in oral health research and practice, with virtually no U.S. studies that follow how caries progresses for this age group. As such, this longitudinal study presents a unique opportunity, given the length of the study, the diversity of the participants, and the multiple sites involved, to reveal new insights into how caries progresses among adolescent populations, exploring the changes that take place throughout the teenage years.

In support of this work, the  National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded a five-year $2.15 million grant (approximately $9m for all four institutions) to the University of Iowa via a subcontract with University of Michigan principal investigator Margherita Fontana, professor of dentistry.

This research is critical to developing person-centered preventive care in an interprofessional setting that is responsive to the unique needs of this age group. Specifically, this project will:

1) define dental caries patterns in early adolescence, including how those patterns change in frequency and severity from age one year old to fifteen years old for both primary and permanent teeth,

2) identify patterns of caries risk facto

rs and behaviors in the cohort when they were preschoolers, school-age, and early adolescents, and explore how these change over time, and

3) characterize the relationships among longitudinal caries patterns and risk factor/behavior patterns that lead to future caries development, with the goal of developing risk screening tools to predict caries patterns and predict caries incidence in early adolescence.

Although the team has been working together with this cohort for 12 years, they are expanding the team to include new experts in adolescent and behavioral health, and clinical decision-making.

The goal of this longitudinal study is to develop protocols so that healthcare professionals can tailor interventions to the specific and unique needs of children and adolescents.

The University of Iowa site team includes Steven Levy, Wright-Bush-Shreves Endowed Professor of Research at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry and Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the College of Public Health; Trishul Allareddy, chair and professor in the Department of Oral Pathology, Radiology, and Medicine, Jeanette Daly, research scientist of family medicine; Justine Kolker, the Fuller-Denehy Professor of Operative Dentistry and professor in the Department of Operative Dentistry; Barcey Levy, Iowa Academy of Family Physicians Endowed Chair in Rural Medicine and professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the College of Public Health; and John Warren, interim chair and professor in the Department of Preventive and Community Dentistry.