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Florida Faculty Receives NIDCR grant to Study Dental Caries and Fluorosis among Children

Dental caries are a significant chronic disease problem among children, yet there is limited information on what may place children at risk for tooth decay. Dr. Somnath Datta, a professor in the department of biostatistics at the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions and the College of Medicine, seeks to gain a better understanding of risk and preventive factors for dental caries, with support from a new grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

Rates of dental caries in children ages 2 to 11 decreased from the 1970s to 1990s, but in recent years, that trend has reversed, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. More than 40 percent of children in this age group have had dental caries in their primary, or baby, teeth.

Dr. Datta and his team will undertake an integrative statistical examination of data obtained from the Iowa Fluoride Study. The Iowa Fluoride Study is an ongoing study of a cohort of Iowa children that began in 1991, and is led by Dr. Steven Levy, a professor at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry, who will serve as a co-principal investigator in the new study. The Iowa Fluoride Study dataset includes dental caries scores as well as a number of supporting variables, such as dental hygiene and fluoride and calcium intake. Because of the complex nature of the data, off-the-shelf statistical methods are unable to provide a full understanding of these data, Dr. Datta said.

“Through the use of appropriate statistical models that account for the spatio-temporal nature of the data and incorporate the supporting variables, we will enhance our understanding of dental caries and fluorosis,” Dr. Datta said. “Furthermore, use of data from multiple years on the same children will yield short- and long-term effects of various risk and preventive factors for caries and fluorosis.”