Mary Tavares, DMD, MPH
Senior Clinical Investigator
Instructor, Department of Oral Health Policy / Epidemiology, Harvard School of Dental Medicine
Mary Tavares’ research is closely linked to Forsyth’s founding mission. With a focus on both clinical and public health research, Tavares is interested in bringing about policy change that has an impact on dental health. Her ultimate goal is to ensure better oral health and overall wellness for the community.
She has conducted seminal research on clinical outcomes including: research confirming the safety of silver amalgam fillings, patient satisfaction with dental treatment, and oral health disparities. Tavares’s passion is for integrating oral and systemic health and finding ways for the dental profession to expand its scope. She is an inaugural member of the Kuwait-Forsyth School Oral Health Program and she continues to care for children in the program today.
“If people are getting dental care, which is of course our hope, they are seeing a dentist on a regular basis, usually twice a year which is more often than they see their physicians,” said Tavares. “This provides the ideal platform for prevention and wellness programs. With a strong synergy between dental health and overall nutrition, it is especially optimal for obesity prevention.”
Based on this notion, Tavares has developed an obesity prevention program for children called the Healthy Weight Intervention (HWI). It promotes healthy lifestyles as part of routine dental care by providing children with individualized healthy weight information and behavioral goal-setting while reducing barriers to obesity prevention information, particularly in low-income communities. At every preventative dental visit each child is assessed for height, weight and body mass index. In addition, based on their responses to questions about obesity-related behaviors with respect to diet, physical activity, television habits and meal patterns, they get a personalized “healthy weight report card” with specific recommendations and goals that they have chosen to work on. Children make self-assessments and set their own behavioral goals, facilitated by dental personnel. The program was piloted in Cambridge and Somerville and is being rolled out in the state of Maine, which has some of the highest obesity rates in the country.
Tavares is also working with Forsyth’s Kuwait Healthy Lifestyle Program to help bring the lessons learned locally to bear on more than 8,000 children in Kuwait.
St. Peter's College, BA, 1971, Sociology
Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, DMD, 1977, Dentistry
Harvard School of Public Health, MPH, 1980, Public Health
Boston University School of Graduate Dentistry, Certificate, 1981, Public Health