From left: Dr. Walter Siqueira, Christine Downing, and Dr. Francisco Otero-Cagide, part of the College of Dentistry research team. (Photo: Jenna Fraser)

Research team at College of Dentistry receives SHRF grant

Dr. Walter L. Siqueira, along with Dr. Francisco Otero-Cagide and Christine Downing have been awarded a SHRF grant in the amount of $120,000 to study a novel way of diagnosing periodontal disease activity, which is an area that continues to elude the dental profession.

By Jenna Fraser

Periodontitis, also known as gum disease, damages gums and bone supporting the teeth which can lead to tooth loss if gone untreated. Currently, dentists are only able to understand and detect periodontitis through a patient’s history; they are unable to determine the current disease activity or risk for patients to develop periodontitis in the future.

“Periodontitis is one of the most common chronic diseases in Canada. It affects 21% of Canadians and 43% of the First Nations population shows signs of the disease.” Said Otero-Cagide, an associate professor in the College of Dentistry and periodontist. “Given the prevalence of this disease in the Canadian population, there is an urgent need to better understand periodontitis and develop a method to diagnose periodontitis based on the activity of the disease.”

“Histatin is a peptide found in saliva that has antifungal properties. Our preliminary data shows that the kinetic degradation of histatin differs between healthy groups and groups with periodontitis.” Explains Siqueira, professor and associate dean academic. “We believe that by examining the degradation rate and mode of histatin in saliva, we may be able to create a novel approach to contribute to improved diagnostic accuracy of the disease.”

The research team believes that examining salivary enzymes, specifically histatin, is the first step to developing a diagnostic method for identifying active periodontitis.

“While the goal of our research is to develop a novel way to diagnose periodontitis, we also plan to provide clinicians with a way to provide better care to patients.” Said Downing, an instructor in the Dental Assisting program at the college and a registered Dental Assistant and Dental Hygienist. “The results of our research will be able to assist clinicians during the decision-making process and allow them to provide a patient-oriented management plan for periodontal disease.”

“One of the most exciting parts of this research project is our new collaboration.” Said Siqueira. “For the first time in the college we are seeing a partnership between clinicians and clinician-scientists. This partnership is allowing a high knowledge translation as we take our research discoveries and implement them directly in a clinical setting. It reaffirms our college’s commitment not only to providing a high standard of clinical teaching, but also our expanding research capacity.”

The research team, consists of Dr. Walter Siqueira, Dr. Francisco Otero-Cagide, Christine Downing, Dr. Lina Marin and Dr. Janet Hill. The project was entered in the 2020-2021 SHRF Grant Competition and not only awarded $120,000, but ranked as the top project in the competition.

The research team has support from the various regulating bodies in the dental community in Saskatchewan, including the College of Dental Surgeons of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Dental Assistants’ Association, Saskatchewan Dental Hygienists Association, and Saskatchewan Dental Therapists Association. Siqueira, Otero-Cagide, Downing and Marin will be making regular presentations to these bodies to update them on the progress and findings from their research.