Are pregnant women allowed to have a checkup at the dentist?At their obstetrician’s office—actually help prevent severe tooth decay among young children?
Jin Xiao DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery), certainly believes so, using digital technology and artificial intelligence. A grant has been given to the Eastman Institute for Oral Health researcher to test this idea.
“Education and prevention are critical to resolving this significant public health problem,” said Dr. Xiao, EIOH associate professor and perinatal oral health expert, “and pregnancy is an ideal time to promote prevention given the profound influence of maternal oral health and behaviors on their children’s oral health.”
Severe tooth decay – or Early Childhood Caries (ECC) is one of the most common preventable diseases and is on the rise worldwide. It’s a complex problem that affects mainly children in underserved racial and ethnic minorities. Children suffering from tooth decay feel great pain. This can impact their ability to eat, sleep, and chew. ECC has a significant negative impact on children, their families and the healthcare system.
Complex problems require innovative solutions. Dr. Xiao studied this problem for years in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Rochester. This latest project, SMARTeth Smart Connected Oral Health Community Using AI and Digital Technologies To Close the Gaps of Oral Health Disparity is her creative approach to addressing the root causes.
During a routine obstetrician’s visit, a participant patient will have intraoral photos taken. Dr. Xiao’s team also developed AICaries, a smartphone app that can detect signs and symptoms of tooth decay in herself and her children. She can request a virtual visit to address any dental concerns or pain, and, if necessary, an appointment for treatment.
All throughout pregnancy, she will receive education on the importance of good oral hygiene and support to overcome other obstacles such as transportation. Good oral hygiene during pregnancy can have a positive impact on the birth outcome. Research has shown that preterm and low-birth weight babies are more likely to be born to women who have gum disease.
The project, funded by the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Health Equity Program Support Office, aims to treat 1,000 patients throughout the year, thanks to collaborations with URMC obstetricians and a University of Rochester computer science data expert.
This is another example of Eastman Institute for Oral Health’s and Dr. Xiao’s commitment to reduce health disparities. In 2018, a Pregnancy and Infant Dental Clinic was established as part of EIOH’s Specialty Care Clinic. A $3.5 million grant was given to her to conduct an unprecedented study on early-life biological factors that are associated with severe tooth decay in underserved racial or ethnic minority groups. She also received other grants to study the relationship between yeast and ECC onset, nutrition, and the development of a smartphone app.
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