Do frequent arguments between parents and an unstable home environment contribute to oral and systemic health problems, as well as to psychological stress? Researchers from the NYU College of Dentistry and Stony Brook University are examining this question with the help of a two-year, $1 million grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of NIH.
The study is being led jointly by Dr. Mark Wolff, Professor and Chair of the Department of Cariology & Comprehensive Care and Associate Dean for Predoctoral Clinical Education at the NYU College of Dentistry, and Drs. Richard Heyman and Amy Slep, both Research Professors of Psychology at Stony Brook University. The coinvestigators will evaluate 800 parents and caregivers and 400 children ages 4 to 11 who live in Suffolk County, New York. Drs. Heyman and Slep identified the subjects through a telephone survey conducted in conjunction with an earlier study that was limited to the psychological effects of family conflict in homes with frequent parental conflict and dysfunction.
In the new study, the NYU–Stony Brook research team will administer comprehensive oral, systemic, and psychological health examinations to evaluate the subjects for:
- oral health status and quality of life, including number of dental caries
- physical health status, including susceptibility to common ailments such as colds and the flu
- blood levels of enzymes and proteins associated with diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and other stress-related, inflammatory conditions
- mental health status, including symptoms of depression and anxiety
The investigators hypothesize that, of the subjects evaluated, children who are frequently exposed to family conflict will have higher-than-average levels of dental caries, common systemic illnesses, and psychological problems. If this proves to be the case, the study could lead to the development of specific recommendations on how to screen those at risk for a broad range of oral, systemic, and psychological health conditions.
"We hope that this study will make dentists, dental hygienists, physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers more aware of the implications of family conflict," said Dr. Wolff.
Dr. Ananda P. Dasanayake, Professor of Epidemiology & Health Promotion at the NYU College of Dentistry, is a coinvestigator on the study.