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Advances in Health and Medicine

Dentists Study Defects to Save Faces


Many congenital defects remain internal, but craniofacial ones manifest as deformities like cleft lips and palates. Pitt researchers hope identifying causes of such defects will help prevent them.

In a multinational research study, professors Mary Marazita, Katherine Neiswanger, and Alex Vieira found that cleft palates have multiple genetic causes. They conduct their research through Pitt’s Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics (CCDG), which Marazita directs.

Part of Pitt’s School of Dental Medicine, CCDG researchers conduct environmental and genetic research in the hope of identifying underlying causes of birth defects and dental disease. To coordinate multiple research studies examining such defects, CCDG initiated FaceBase, which establishes a data management and coordination hub researchers can use to share and corroborate data.

Not all CCDG research is so broad. Closer to home, CCDG also studies the epidemiology of tooth decay and dental infections among people in Appalachian communities. Residents of these areas suffer from some of the worst dental health in the United States.