American Dental Association Science & Research Institute Receives Grant to Study IBD Symptoms through Saliva Testing

Researchers to evaluate potential to predict inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) flare-ups in pediatric patients


CHICAGO, Aug. 15, 2023 – The American Dental Association Science & Research Institute (ADASRI), in collaboration with the University of North Carolina Center for Gastrointestinal Biology and Disease, was recently awarded a $130,000 grant from the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation to evaluate the potential of saliva testing to monitor and predict the exacerbation of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in pediatric patients.

The grant was presented to Kevin Matthew Byrd, D.D.S., Ph.D., ADASRI’s Volpe Research Scholar and senior manager of its Lab of Oral and Craniofacial Innovation (LOCI), and Terrie Weaver, M.S., research associate at LOCI. The project is part of the larger Tissue Repository for Inflammatory and Allergic Chronic GI Diseases: Learning in Pediatrics (TRIANGLE PEDS) effort at the University of North Carolina.

“Our saliva is up to 99 percent water, but it also contains microbes, proteins, mucus and immune cells,” Byrd said. “Research has already indicated that the assortment of immune cells that are present in saliva changes when IBD flares up, which might be able to help doctors evaluate whether a patient’s condition is getting better or worse over time. Our team hopes that our work will bridge the gap between GI medicine and oral health and help children get the care they need more quickly.”

Approximately 20 percent of the more than six million IBD patients worldwide were diagnosed during childhood, but this population is understudied compared to adult patients. Pediatric IBD patients typically experience more significant symptoms than adults and often need surgery within a few years of diagnosis. Up to 80 percent of children with IBD have sores or unusual inflammation in their mouths, which is also an understudied aspect of the disease.

The Foundation awarded the grant through its Litwin IBD Pioneers initiative, which supports innovative clinical and translational research projects that have the potential to impact IBD treatment. The pilot program will assess immune cells in saliva samples from up to 100 pediatric patients aged seven to 17 to evaluate how effectively their disease is being managed and predict changes in symptom severity.

"We are excited to support the ADA in their pursuit of groundbreaking research,” said Caren Heller, M.D., chief scientific officer for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. “Saliva testing has the potential to change the way we think about diagnosing and managing IBD in pediatric patients. This initiative will address critical gaps in understanding the role of saliva in IBD.”

ADASRI’s team of GI, pediatric and oral specialists will begin their research in September 2023 and share results in summer 2025. To learn more about ADASRI, visit

About the American Dental Association

The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 159,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance has long been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), published monthly, is the ADA's flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA's consumer website