Department of Preventive Dentistry, Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam (ACTA), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam & University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Towards understanding Oral Health
During the last century, dental research has focused on unravelling the mechanisms behind various oral pathologies, while oral health was typically described as the mere absence of oral diseases. The term ‘oral microbial homeostasis’ is used to describe the capacity of an oral ecosystem to maintain microbial community stability at health. However, the entire oral ecosystem itself is not stable: an individual undergoes multiple physiological changes throughout life when a person progresses through infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. Recent discussions on the definition of general health have led to the proposal that health is the ability of the individual to adapt to physiological changes, a condition described as allostasis.
In the presentation the allostasis principle will be applied to the oral ecosystem and illustrated with clinical examples. The complexity of oral health and the mechanisms that prevent the ecosystem from collapsing during allostatic changes in the entire body are far from being understood. To date, individual components (e.g., hard tissues, microbiome, saliva, host response) have been investigated. By consolidating these and assessing their multidimensional interactions we should be able to reach a comprehensive understanding of the ecosystem. This, in turn, could serve to develop rational schemes for maintaining health.
Egija Zaura is University Research Chair Professor in Oral Microbial Ecology at the Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam and at the Department of Preventive Dentistry at the Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam (ACTA), VU Amsterdam and University of Amsterdam (UvA), the Netherlands. She obtained her Dental degree in1995 at Karolinska Institute, Sweden. After graduation, she combined her work in the dental clinic in Rīga with completing a degree in General Dentistry at RSU, Latvia in 1997. Thereafter she was invited to do research in preventive dentistry at ACTA in Amsterdam. Her PhD study (UvA, 2002, cum laude), involved pioneering research in oral microbial ecology using state-of-the-art non-invasive approaches to understand the interactions of microbial biofilms with dental hard tissues.
In the past decade, during her ongoing research career, together with colleagues from ACTA and TNO, she has introduced next generation sequencing technologies in oral microbial ecology research and has set the stage for oral microbiomics worldwide. This has resulted in valuable new insights and high quality publications on oral microbial ecology. This recognition has initiated numerous international collaborations. Her clinical, chemical, microbiological and bioinformatical expertise allows linking and interpreting of complex and heterogeneous information at various levels and applying an ecosystemic view on the oral cavity and beyond.
In her research, she links oral microbial ecology with the rest of the human body and looks holistically at the maintenance of health. The ultimate aim of her research is to understand the factors contributing to the maintenance of oral health, the processes involved in acquiring the oral microbiome and the relationship between oral and general health. In 2017 she was appointed University Research Chair (URC) at the VU. URC is a selective and privileged appointment as full professor. The chair has been created to recognise and reward outstanding scholars who are acknowledged by their peers as upcoming leaders in their research field.