Study involved oral health in college students

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – College students don’t do a very good job of taking care of their teeth and gums. Sawan Prabhu, a fourth-year Doctor of Dental Surgery student in the West Virginia University School of Dentistry, won a Best in Session Award for her research poster presentation on that topic at the Thomas P. Hinman Dental Meeting, the annual meeting for the Hinman Dental Society, held March 26-28 in Atlanta, Ga.

Prabhu was invited to present at the annual meeting after she received an award at the 20th Hinman Student Research Symposium held in October in Memphis, Tenn. The annual meeting hosted around 100 presenters from more than 20 institutions spread among six sessions, with two presenters awarded at each session.

Prabhu’s research examines oral health in college students using American College Health Association National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA) data. She found a high rate of oral risk factors, such as poor nutrition, bulimia, diabetes, and HIV, among students who reported not having a dental exam in the previous 12 months. Her project was directed by Keith Zullig, Ph.D., interim chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences in the WVU School of Public Health.

“College students are a very unique population. We do things on the weekends where people may or may not remember to brush their teeth; we stay up really late studying and drinking coffee and sports drinks,” Prabhu said. “Doing all these things, there’s a lot of oral risk we take that you just don’t think about. And, college students are making the foundation for their health habits for the rest of their lives.”

Very little research on oral health and college students exists presently. Prabhu hopes her study will spark an interest in that area. She is currently writing up her study for publication in a scholarly journal.

The Best in Session Award is judged on the following criteria:  relevant and timely topic, practical approach, scientifically sound evidence presented, topic was covered fully, there were relevant objectives and a conclusion, presenter showed thorough knowledge of the topic, the display was neat and attractive, and the presenter took an innovative and original approach to the presentation.

Prabhu intends to pursue public health dentistry among underserved populations. She has already accepted a job as a general dentist at Kool Smiles in Terre Haute, Ind., where she will begin after she graduates this May.

“Sawan Prabhu has represented the School of Dentistry and West Virginia University at the very highest levels,” Anthony “Tom” Borgia, D.D.S., M.H.A., interim dean of the WVU School of Dentistry, said. “Her repeated and recognized accomplishments are testament to her dedication and hard work, which reflect greatly upon her and which are also a positive reflection upon the University community.”

For more information: Angela Jones-Knopf, News Service Coordinator, 304-293-7087
sw: 04-21-15