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 unraveling 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 lead 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 Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam (ACTA), VU Amsterdam and University of Amsterdam (UvA), the Netherlands. She obtained her Dental degree in 1995 at Karolinska Institute, Sweden. After graduation, she combined her work in the dental clinic in Riga with accomplishing 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 last decade, during her ongoing research career, together with the 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 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 maintenance of oral health, the processes involved in acquiring the oral microbiome and the relationship between oral and general health. In 2017 she received University Research Chair (URC) appointment at the VU. is a selective and privileged appointment as full professor. The chair has been created to recognize and reward outstanding scholars who are acknowledged by their peers as upcoming leaders in their research field.