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NIH Awards NYU College of Dentistry $1.8 Million to Identify Risk for Severe Early Childhood Caries

March 24, 2008
N-356, 2007-08

Although rare, the voracious disease has devastating and life-long consequences for the child’s oral health

New York University College of Dentistry’s Dr. Page W. Caufield, a professor of cariology and comprehensive care has received a five-year, $1.83 million grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), part of NIH, to conduct research to help identify those at risk for severe early childhood caries, a disease that can destroy most of a child’s teeth by age six.

The grant enables Caufield’s team, led to create a genetic profile of Streptoccocus mutans, the fast-acting, potent bacterium that causes the condition, which disproportionately affects children in underserved socioeconomic groups.

“Through profiling we will uncover genetic differences between virulent, disease-causing S. mutans strains and those strains found in children who are caries-free,” said Dr. Caufield.

In an earlier phase of their research, which was also funded by the NIDCR, Dr. Caufield and his team discovered that mothers transmit S. mutans to their babies, a process believed to occur when the baby passes through the birth canal and comes in contact with transient bacteria originating in the mother’s oral cavity. Plaque created by the bacteria covers the baby’s teeth when they emerge and can erode some teeth in as little as one year. The earlier study identified S. mutans gene sequences common to a group of 50 medically-underserved New York City Hispanic children with severe early childhood caries.

With the help of the new grant, the team will assess whether those gene sequences can reliably predict the disease in a group of 300 children from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. This finding is expected to propel the development of a diagnostic test that dentists could administer chairside to identify those at risk, so that preventive measures, such as sealing a child’s teeth shortly after they emerge, can be taken.

Caufield’s coinvestigators are Dr. Yihong Li, associate professor of cariology and comprehensive care; Dr. Deepak Saxena, assistant professor of basic science and craniofacial biology; and Dr. Robert Norman, research associate professor of epidemiology & health promotion, all of the NYUCD; and Dr. Jane Carlton, associate professor of medical parasitology, and Dr. Stuart Brown, associate professor of cell biology, of the NYU School of Medicine.


Founded in 1865, New York University College of Dentistry is the third oldest and the largest dental school in the United States, educating more than 8 percent of all dentists. NYUCD has a significant global reach and provides a level of national and international diversity among its students that is unmatched by any other dental school. In 2005, the NYU Division of Nursing became a College of Nursing located within the NYU College of Dentistry.

This Press Release is in the following Topics:
Research, College of Dentistry

Type: Press Release

Press Contact: Christopher James | (212) 998-6876


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