University of Illinois at Chicago

Mediation of the Oral Microbiome Between Obesity and Oral Health in Chicago Children

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posted on 2023-08-01, 00:00 authored by Pamela S Whyms
The dysbiosis or disruption of the oral microbiome can have serious negative health effects in the oral cavity. Dysbiosis can either refer to a change of the composition of the species present in the microbiome, or a change in the genes that are expressed in the microbiota. Dysbiosis is often associated with gingival inflammation, which can cause damage to dental tissue. Inflammation can be an indication of dysbiosis and/or systemic inflammation throughout the body due to obesity. Because of the negative health effects of dysbiosis and gingival inflammation, it’s important to understand how this cycle begins and what occurs during dysbiosis. Many studies on this topic focus on adults. However, childhood obesity is increasing in the U.S. which is also likely causing a rise in systemic inflammation among children as well. Children’s diets are also increasing in sugar and carbohydrates, which can lead to dysbiosis and gingival disease. Therefore, the primary aim of this dissertation was to explore whether specific species in the oral microbiome mediate the relationship between obesity and gingival inflammation among children in Chicago, who are more likely to have obesity compared to national averages. If individual species acted as mediators, they may cause their own level of inflammation and exacerbate poor gingival health. Patients aged 10-12 from UIC’s Pediatric Dental Clinic were recruited for this study. Each child provided dietary information through a Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ). Gingival swabs were collected to sequence their oral microbiome. And demographic information such as race, ethnicity, and household income were collected in a survey filled out by the parents of the patients. I identified Tannerella forsythia as a significant mediator in this sample, which was important because its associated with inflammation and periodontal disease. The mediation of T. forsythia between obesity and gingival inflammation may suggest that some of the children in this study are at the precipice of further oral microbiome dysbiosis which could lead to a cascade of oral health problems. I propose that children with obesity may be experiencing the combined effects of obesity-mediated systemic inflammation and oral microbiome-derived local inflammation.



Williams, Sloan


Williams, Sloan



Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Degree name

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Member

Nicholas, Christina Naqvi, Afsar Awadalla, Saria Starkweather, Katie

Submitted date

August 2023

Thesis type



  • en

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