Suchitra Nelson, PhD

Professor and Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Research
Department of Community Dentistry
School of Dental Medicine
Department of Population & Quantitative Health Sciences
School of Medicine

About Dr. Nelson

I am an epidemiologist who has worked at the Case School of Dental Medicine since 1991. I am also the Director of the DMD-Masters in Clinical Research dual-degree training program, one of few such training programs in the dental schools nationally. My research interests are in the area of oral health disparities with the main goal of reducing disparities in poor, minority, and special needs children and adults.  Our research projects are mainly funded by federal agencies such the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to address these issues.


Teaching Information

Courses Taught

DENT | 501 | Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Research Information

Research Interests

Oral Health Disparities: Reducing Disparities in Poor, Minority, and Special Needs Children and Adults

Research Profile

Research Projects

From 2007-2011: We have conducted a community based clinical trial testing the effectiveness of xylitol in preventing dental caries in kindergarten children followed until the second grade. The kindergarten children were given xylitol or fiber gummy bears together with other currently available best prevention practices such as oral health education, tooth brush and paste, fluoride varnish, and dental sealants. Other data such as caregiver and child oral health behavior, access, and dietary information have been collected. From this project, we found out that individual level prevention is not sufficient to reduce caries in low-income populations, and that family level prevention is also necessary. We received an R34 pilot study to plan for family-level theory-based behavioral interventions. This study has led to a larger U01 clinical trial of family-level interventions in school districts in Ohio and Washington states.

From 2007-2014: An R01 level NIDCR study investigated the oral health problems of preterm very low birth weight (VLBW) and NBW infants. Assessments included dental caries, tooth enamel problems, S. mutans bacteria, oral hygiene behavior, diet, and DNA samples of infants. Approximately 300 VLBW infants, and 300 normal birth weight controls were recruited from two hospitals in the Cleveland area. The participating infants receive a visual dental exam to determine oral health at three ages -8, 18, and 36 months. This longitudinal cohort study is aimed to understand the mechanism of early childhood caries in VLBW infants. The long term goal of this study is to study the permanent dentition and develop interventions that are appropriate for this group of special needs children.

Our studies also include developing an illness perception measure for older adults using the Common-Sense Model of Self-Regulation. This measure will be instrumental in assessing the oral health beliefs of older adults that would be conducive for developing behavioral interventions in the future.

Awards and Honors

Mather Spotlight Prize & Woman of Achievement Award
Flora Stone Mather Center for Women
Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE)
White House Office of Science and Technology


Selected Publications

Merheb R, Arumugam C, Lee W, Collin M, Nguyen C, Groh-Wargo S, Nelson S. Neonatal Serum Phosphorus Levels and Enamel Def ect s in Very-Low-Birth-Weight Infants. PEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2016 Aug;40(6):835-41. doi: 10.1177/0148607115573999. Epub 2015 Mar 2. PMID: 25733338

Nelson S, Albert JM, Soderling E, Malik A, Curt an S, Geng C, Milgrom P. Increased number of teeth predict acquisition of mutans streptococci in infants. Eur J Oral Sci. 2014 Oct ;122(5):346-52. PubMed PMID: 25183438; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4163102.

Chen Y, Lee W, Ferretti GA, Slayton RL, Nelson S. Agreement between photographic and clinical examinations in detecting developmental defects of enamel in infants. J Public Health Dent . 2013 Summer;73(3):204-9. PubMed PMID: 23560699; PubMed Central PMCID:PMC3757102.

Nelson S, Albert JM, Geng C, Curtan S, Lang K, Miadich S, Heima M, Malik A, Ferretti G, Eggertsson H, Slayton RL, Milgrom P. Increased enamel hypoplasia and very low birthweight infants. J Dent Res. 2013 Sep;92(9):788-94. PubMed PMID: 23857641; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3744269.

Nelson S, Lee W, Albert JA, Singer L. Early maternal psychosocial factors are predictors for adolescent caries. J Dent Res. 2012 Sep;91(9):859-64. doi: 10.1177/0022034512454434. Epub 2012 Jul 20.

Milgrom P, Soderling E, Nelson S, Chi D, Nakai Y. Clinical evidence for polyol efficacy. Adv Dent Res. 2012 Sep;24(2):112-6. doi: 10.1177/0022034512449467.

Nelson S, Milgrom P. Minority participation in a school-based randomized clinical trial of tooth decay prevention in the United States. Contemp Clin Trials. 2012 Jan;33(1):60-6. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2011.09.012. Epub 2011 Oct 1. PMID: 21986390.

Nelson S, Mandelaris J, Heima M, Ferretti G, Spiekerman C, Milgrom P. School screening and parental reminders in increasing dental care for children in need: a retrospective cohort study. J Public Health Dent. 2012 Winter;72(1):45-52. PMID:22316214.

Albert JM, Wang W, Nelson S. Estimating overall exposure effects for zero-inflated regression models with application to dental caries. Stat Methods Med Res. 2011 Sep 8. PMID:21908419.

Nelson S, Eggertsson H, Powell B, Mandelaris J, Ntragatakis M, Lombardi G, Richardson T, Ferretti G. Dental Examiners Consistency in the ICDAS Criteria for a Caries Prevention Community Trial. Community Dent Health. 2011 Sep;28(3):238-42. PMID: 21916361.

Nelson S, Albert JA, Lombardi G, Wishnek S, Asaad G, Kirchner HL, Singer LT. Dental Caries and Enamel Defects in Very Low Birth Weight Adolescents. Caries Res 2010;44(6):509-518. PMID: 20975268.

Albert JM, Nelson S. Generalized Causal Mediation Analysis. Biometrics. 2011 Sep;67(3):1028-38. doi: 10.1111/j.1541-0420.2010.01547.x. Epub 2011 Feb 9. PMID:21306353. 


Doctor of Philosophy
Master of Science
Case Western Reserve University
Master of Science
Case Western Reserve University
Bachelor of Science
University of Madras