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Grins for Gains: Mississippi’s Dental Crusade to Brighten Young Smiles

Discover how the University of Mississippi’s research is transforming oral health for the state’s youth. Dive into a groundbreaking study targeting school-age children, led by innovative dental experts, promising a brighter, caries-free future.

The University of Mississippi School of Dentistry in Jackson is pioneering an initiative aimed at enhancing oral health among school-age children in Mississippi. Led by Elizabeth Carr, DHA, MDH, RDH, and her team, the study marks a crucial milestone in oral health research, targeting 12- to 14-year-olds with an innovative approach to oral hygiene education.

The study seeks to evaluate the effectiveness of different educational approaches in promoting good oral hygiene among students and their caregivers at South Delta High School and Middle School. It aims to determine if educating students about the importance of oral health can lower their risk of future tooth decay, and if extending this education to their parents or guardians has a similar impact.

On May 1, Phase 1 of the 30-month study was initiated, with 69 fourth- through ninth-grade students in the South Delta School District receiving comprehensive oral exams to identify any instances of decayed, missing, or filled teeth. In the study’s next phases, evaluations will be conducted every 6 months and compared to the Phase 1 baseline exams.

After Phase 1 is complete, the subjects will be split into three groups:

  1. Control group that receives oral health supplies
  2. Group 2 that receives the same supplies along with oral health education
  3. Group 3 that receives both supplies and education for both students and their caregivers

In Mississippi, oral health is often overshadowed by systemic issues, such as socioeconomic disparities and limited access to care. In a 2015-2016 study of 8- to 9-year-old Mississippi residents, more than 30% had untreated dental caries. In addition to the negative health effects of tooth decay, untreated caries results in loss of school time. Across the United States, that loss is estimated at more than 50 million hours per year.

The study is part of the Mississippi Population Oral Health Collaborative (MPOHC), a partnership between the dental school and the state’s Department of Health, designed to improve the oral health of underserved populations, including children. In addition to research, the MPOHC is educating nurses in more than 660 schools across the state to help them effectively handle dental emergencies, note the presence of orofacial pain, and provide referrals to dental providers. Click here to read more.

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