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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 22, 2005

Dentistry Researchers Receive NIH Renewal For Iowa Fluoride Study

The Iowa Fluoride Study research team at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry recently received a four-year, $2.67 million grant renewal from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) of the National Institutes of Health.

The renewal will fund the team's continuing study on the relationships between dental health and fluoride, as well as dietary exposures to sugars and refined carbohydrates.

Originally, the overall goal of the study was to examine how fluoride exposures and ingestion beginning at birth relate to the occurrence of dental fluorosis (cosmetic changes in the teeth) and dental caries (cavities). The new grant continues this focus, but also has an expanded emphasis on the effects of diet on dental caries.

The Iowa Fluoride Study began in 1991, led by principal investigator Steven Levy, D.D.S., the Wright-Bush-Shreves Professor of Research and professor of preventive and community dentistry in the UI College of Dentistry. Levy also is a professor of epidemiology in the UI College of Public Health.

The recruiting process began in 1992 and continued until 1995. During this time, newborn babies from eight different hospitals in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Des Moines and Muscatine were invited to take part. Approximately 700 families are currently taking part in the study.

Twice each year, parents of the participants completed surveys about their child's dietary and dental health. Questions included the foods and beverages the child consumed, the sources of the water they drank, dental health habits, their use of fluoride toothpaste and tablets, and other information.

The children receive dental examinations every few years, and additional questionnaires are completed.

Today, these participants are between 10 and 13 years old. Over the next three years, a main focus will be on completing dental examinations of the children at age 13.

Levy noted that findings from the Iowa Fluoride Study suggest that fluoride exposures and intake vary even more than researchers expected. Levy and his colleagues found that even though average rates of tooth decay are lower today than in the past, cavities in baby teeth and permanent teeth are still a problem. Results also suggest that greater ingestion of soda pop is associated with an increase in tooth decay.

The Iowa Fluoride Study has led to other studies, as well. The Iowa Bone Development Study evaluates dietary, genetic and physical activity factors and how they affect bone growth among the same children enrolled in the Iowa Fluoride Study. Another study examines the relationships between children's sucking on pacifiers and fingers and the need for orthodontic treatment.

Funded earlier by three multi-year grants from the NIDCR, Levy noted that these studies are uniquely appropriate for Iowa.

"Because of the stability of the population and cooperation in Iowa, this is a perfect state in which to do a study like this," Levy said. "Our research team is very appreciative of the families that have remained with us for this long."

Co-investigators for the Iowa Fluoride Study include UI College of Dentistry faculty members Jim Wefel, Ph.D., John Warren, D.D.S., Deborah Dawson, Ph.D., Mike Kanellis, D.D.S., Teresa Marshall, Ph.D., and Karin Weber-Gasparoni, D.D.S., Ph.D., and project coordinator Julie Eichenberger-Gilmore, Ph.D. Phyllis Stumbo, Ph.D., a research nutritionist with the UI General Clinical Research Center, serves as a consultant on the study.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5139 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: David Pedersen, (319) 335-8032, Writer: Whitney Tripp.