Appalachia has the largest burden of oral health problems per capita in the United States. Furthermore, health disparities in oral health outcomes resulting from differences in socioeconomic status occur. The goal of the Center for Oral Health Research in Appalachia (COHRA) is to identify factors that lead to oral health disparities in children and families in Appalachia. These factors may include genes, microbes, behavior, family interactions, or community characteristics.
Oral disease remains a major health burden that affects some populations disproportionally, including communities in regions of Appalachia. The University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics (CCDG) has received a grant that will expand its ongoing Factors Contributing to Oral Health Disparities in Appalachia project, part of the COHRA. The new grant will help researchers to determine the sources of oral health disparity in high risk, Northern Appalachian populations.
COHRA’s long-term goal is to design and implement preventive interventions for oral disease, particularly childhood caries, a bacterial infection that causes corrosion of a young child’s teeth due to bacteria that is passed from mother to child. The new grant, valued at $4 million, will be dedicated to enrolling pregnant African-American women in the COHRA project, which was previously limited to Caucasian women and their children.
Both increased sugar intake and frequency of exposure alter the oral microbial community, triggering a disease process that leads to caries. Additional factors associated with caries in children include genetic risk, household socioeconomic status, maternal caregiving behavior and stress, access to care, and ethnicity.