Oral Health, Systemic Health, Well-Being, and the Social Sciences


Oral health sits at the crossroads of health and the social sciences and is intimately connected to the health and socioeconomic welfare of individuals, families, and communities. As a result, efforts to improve oral health must consider both the consequences and causes of underlying social and economic factors.

With its distinguished tradition of innovation in social science methods and the application of these methods to complex problems, the University of Chicago is uniquely poised to tackle these challenges. With funding from the George E. Richmond Foundation, the Center for Health and the Social Sciences (CHeSS) has created the Program in Oral Health, Systemic Health, Well-Being, and the Social Sciences.  The Program in Oral Health seeks to apply leading-edge social science methods to address important problems in oral health through research and the training of researchers who will transform oral health locally, nationally, and internationally.

Current Projects

Researchers David Meltzer, MD, PhD, Kopal Mathur, BDS, MA, and Tom Best, PhD, are leading a large randomized controlled trial of the effects of offering no-fee basic dental care to older adults. This study is motivated by the substantial literature demonstrating the associations between dental care, oral health and many dimensions of systemic health without evidence of causal effects. The purpose of this study is to understand how offering no-fee dental care to older adults who lack routine dental coverage or care affects their quality of life, health and health care costs. You can read more about this study here:

A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effects of Oral Health on Systemic Health, Oral Health & Health Care Costs Among Older Adults

For more details about this study, please visit the study website.

Past Projects

Researchers David Meltzer, MD, PhD, and Kathleen Cagney, PhD, led the program’s inaugural research projects: 1) Dental Health of Hospitalized Patients; and 2) Lakeside: Dental Health Amid Urban Transformation.  These studies seek to discover strategies to improve the access to and quality of oral care for vulnerable populations.

Funding Opportunities

RBH Endowment Fund

The RBH Endowment Fund is a seed funding program that seeks to accelerate research to advance the connection between oral and systemic health and well-being through the biological and social sciences, clinical care, policy and other academic and professional disciplines throughout the university. For more information refer to the RBH Endowment Fund Proposal page. Click here to access the 2023-24 call for proposals

Center on Healthy Aging Behaviors and Longitudinal Investigations (CHABLIS)

The program development core within CHABLIS provides research and career development support to early-career faculty with pilot projects that span the demography and economics of aging in both medical and social science realms, including the current oral health study as a priority area. For more information, refer to the CHABLIS Pilot Project Funds page.

Training Opportunities

The program in oral health includes research assistantships for UChicago undergraduates and internships for UChicago graduate students throughout the academic year, including Summer. Please reach out to Program Director, Kopal Mathur, (kmathur@bsd.uchicago.edu) if you are interested.

Employment Opportunities

If you are interested in working in The Program in Oral Health, please search for jobs on Workday.