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Is there a link between hypodontia and cancer?


Six years ago, Dr. Leigh Chalothorn published a study in JADA that looked at hypodontia among epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) patients. It was found that there was a prevalence of 20% for hypodontia among EOC patients, while only a 3% prevalence in the control group. This has been a major source for additional studies at “home,” aka the University of Kentucky. My particular study looked at the role of Activin βa and Activin βb and the Activin Type II receptor, which is involved in the transition from Bud-to-Cap stage of odontogenesis, across families with hypodontia to see if there was any correlation. My null hypothesis is that these genes are not associated with hypodontia.


I started working on this project while I was still an undergrad student with one of the orthodontic resident. I was responsible for collecting saliva samples from more than 100 active patients in the orthodontic graduate and faculty clinic. With these samples, we have ran PCR reactions on the samples via the Roche LightCycler and obtained. With the data obtained, example pictured below, we identified the genotype associated with each gene sampled.


We found that our data supported some of the claims found my Dr. Chalotorn, in that the second premolars are most commonly missing, followed by lateral incisors and first premolars respectively. The rest of the data supported the null hypothesis. However, for Activin βa, our p-value was 0.085 under a co-dominant model of inheritance. The biggest downfall to our study is the size of our study population. Off the 100+ samples, 98 were tested from unrelated individuals, as to not influence the data. We believe that with a larger study population, we can more accurately describe the relationship between these genes and their role in hypodontia.

So obviously, this is a large study that’s taken a few years to get here. How did I end up here? Like I said, I found mentors while I was just trying to get to where I am today. After school started, I expressed interest in continuing working with them. However, if you aren’t as lucky as I to have a connection like this, each school should have someone who can direct you to a list of mentors. This is easily your first step in the “how do I get started doing research” business. I do caution you, the list of possibilities can get overwhelming. Once you do that, here are some simple guidelines to follow:

  • DON’T start as a first year. You are still adjusting to the life of a dental student and things can get busy. Additionally, you really have NO idea what all dentistry has to offer. Take this year to soak in some teeth knowledge and find what you like
  • DO get a list of mentors and start looking at options for research.
  • DO research in what you love? Have a hankering for the bacteria that cause periodontal disease? Look at the perio department! Growth and development a thing of yours? Look at ortho, pedo, your anatomy department!
  • Does your research have to be in dentistry? HECK NO! See the point above. Obviously, most do research in a dental related field, however that shouldn’t be your only option. Have a passion for physiology? Do physio research!
  • DO let your mentor know your expectations and what you want to get out of this experience? This sets the basis for a good relationship, as well as what is expected from you during your time.
  • DO have fun! You should do research because you love it. The more you love it, the better and more enjoyable your time will be.

The possibilities for research are near endless. Research your research and get researching!

~Kyle Kirk, Kentucky ’16, District 7 trustee

I want to recognize Drs. James K. Hartsfield and Lorri Morford (University of Kentucky College of Dentistry, Orthodontics Department) for all of their help and guidance over the years on the various projects I’ve worked on.

Click here to download Kyle’s poster and read more about his research!

Kyle Kirk

Kyle is a D3 at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry, as well as the current District 7 Trustee. When he is not busy with school and ASDA, he enjoys tennis, cooking, going to the horse races with friends, and hiking in mountains of eastern Kentucky.

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1 Comment

  1. Johnathan says:

    Very cool post! Wonderful topic to be doing research on. Thanks for the information!!

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