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Suchitra Nelson, PhD

Suchitra Nelson, PhD

Professor, Department of Community Dentistry 216.368.3469 (o)


BS, University of Madras, 1979
MS in Nutrition, Case Western Reserve University, 1984
MS in Epidemiology, Case Western Reserve University, 1988
PhD in Epidemiology, Case Western Reserve University, 1992

About Dr. Nelson

Dr. Nelson is an epidemiologist who has worked at the CWRU School of Dental Medicine since 1991. She is also the Director of the DMD-Master's in Clinical Research dual-degree training program, one of few such training programs available in dental schools nationally. Her research interests are in the area of oral health disparities, with the main goal of reducing disparities in poor, minority, and special needs children. Her research projects are mainly funded by federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to address these issues.

Research summary

From 2007-2011, we conducted a community based clinical trial testing the effectiveness of xylitol in preventing dental caries in kindergarten children followed until the second grade. The kindergarten children were given xylitol or fiber gummy bears together with other currently available best prevention practices such as oral health education, tooth brush and paste, fluoride varnish, and dental sealants. Xylitol is an antibacterial that reduces S. mutans levels, and if proved to be effective will be very useful in school settings for primary prevention efforts. Other data such as caregiver and child oral health behavior, access, and dietary information have been collected. From this project, we found out that individual level prevention is not sufficient to reduce caries in low-income populations, and that family level prevention is also necessary. We are now planning for a clinical trial to improve dental access by intervening with families.

Our ongoing NIDCR study is to learn more about the oral health problems such as dental caries, tooth enamel problems, S. mutans bacteria, oral hygiene behavior, diet, and genetics of infants who were born very low birth weight. We have recruited close to 300 VLBW infants, and 300 normal birth weight controls from two hospitals in the Cleveland area. The participating infants receive a visual dental exam to determine oral health. Subsequently, saliva and plaque samples are taken from the infant and the mother, to determine presence of tooth decay bacteria. Genetic information is collected through Oragene saliva kits. This is a longitudinal cohort study aimed to understand the mechanism of early childhood caries in very low birth weight infants. The long term goal of this study is develop interventions that are appropriate for this group of special needs children.

Nelson S, Lee W, Albert JA, Singer L. Early maternal psychosocial factors predict adolescent caries. JDR 2012. In Press.

Milgrom P, Soderling E, Nelson S, Chi D, Nakai Y. Clinical evidence for polyol efficacy. JDR 2012. In Press.

Nelson S, Milgrom P. Recruitment of Minority School Children into a Randomized Clinical Trial of Tooth Decay Prevention. Contemp Clin Trials. 2011 Oct 1. PMID: 21986390

Nelson S, Mandelaris J, Heima M, Ferretti G, Spiekerman C, Milgrom P. School screening and parental reminders in increasing dental care for children in need: a retrospective cohort study. J Public Health Dent. 2012 Winter;72(1):45-52. PMID:22316214

Albert JM, Wang W, Nelson S. Estimating overall exposure effects for zero-inflated regression models with application to dental caries. Stat Methods Med Res. 2011 Sep 8. PMID:21908419

Nelson S, Eggertsson H, Powell B, Mandelaris J, Ntragatakis M, Lombardi G, Richardson T, Ferretti G. Dental Examiners Consistency in the ICDAS Criteria for a Caries Prevention Community Trial. Community Dent Health. 2011 Sep;28(3):238-42. PMID: 21916361

Nelson S, Albert JA, Lombardi G, Wishnek S, Asaad G, Kirchner HL, Singer LT. Enamel Defects and Dental Caries in Very Low Birth Weight adolescents. Caries Res 2010;44:509-518. PMID: 20975268.

Albert JM, Nelson S. Generalized Mediation Models. Biometrics. 2011 Sep;67(3):1028-38. PMID:21306353

2007 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers(PECASE), White House Office of Science and Technology
2009 Mather Spotlight Prize & Women of Achievement Award, Given by Flora Stone Mather Center for Women

DENT 510 - Epidemiology and Biostatistics