Oral Systemic Links Through the Eyes of a Gen Z

My name is Kavya Kadakia and I am a 9th grade student in Southern California. As a freshman, I got a wonderful opportunity to execute a science fair experiment. I pondered upon topic ideas for my science fair project for a while. My mom, a dentist, talks about her dental work within the house including patient struggles, small discoveries within the dental community, and many talks about the Mouth-Body Connection®. Ironically, I never considered dentists real doctors. Yeah definitely, a smart move putting this statement in a dentist-filled community blog. Yet, after doing some research, I had one question that lingered…What’s so important about mouth and teeth that there are designated doctors for such a small body part? I then stumbled upon a book my mom kept on her shelf, Beat the Heart Attack Gene, which revolved around the Mouth-Body Connection®.

This book sparked my science fair project; to establish a connection between the stages of periodontal disease and coronary artery disease (CAD). With help from OralDNA® Labs and Pacific Dental Services®, I collected specimens from two groups of people, 6 with CAD (experiment group) and 6 without CAD (control group). The first test results revealed the specific number of bacteria correlated between coronary artery disease (CAD) and periodontitis while the second tests revealed the genetic predisposition of a person’s immune response. The expected result was that the control group would have lower numbers of the 11 bacteria in their saliva while the experimental group had higher. This is what happened. The tests results were proved in agreement with my hypothesis.

Throughout these 2 months, I learned a lot and my outlook on oral care drastically changed. I realized from my science fair results that we have a greater chance of developing a severe chronic disease such as deadly coronary artery disease because of our below-average oral care. Now I admire and respect the work of dentists and researchers and their contributions towards the Mouth-Body Connection®. Spoiler alert! Not bragging, but I can tell you that out of the hundreds of submissions my school received, my teachers said this was the most unique project they have seen. My biology teacher was floored when I presented the topic to her. My peers were continuously asking me what drove me to pick this and how interesting the topic sounds. Even though my efforts may be small, my intention with this project was to provide a small insight into the importance of oral care as related to overall health and specifically cardiac health. In the process, I discovered that my research and experiment may also change some of the stereotypes towards dentists as it has changed mine. This project played a huge role in my admiration of medicine and my new passion for the connection between dentistry and medicine, and research in particular.

Learning and research are key to major advancements in the future of the medical and dental communities. Building and raising awareness of these concepts starts with interested students of my generation!

Kavya Kadakia
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