Chronic Diseases

Basic Research
Transitional/Clinical Research
Educational Research

Basic Research

Caries pathogenesis - Institute of Dental Research

Periodotal Pathogenesis - Institute of Dental Research

The Institute of Dental Research (IDR) is the oldest named dental institute in the world and is located within the Westmead Centre for Oral Health at Westmead Hospital. The IDR forms part of the Infection and Immunity branch of the Westmead Millennium Institute. Its research is focused on the analysis of polymicrobial populations within the oral cavity and their involvement in the major oral infections, dental caries and periodontal disease, which contribute a major social burden both in morbidity and cost. In keeping with its role as one of the leading dental research facilities in the Southern Hemisphere, researchers at the IDR are applying the latest advances in genomics and protein science to gain new insights into the study and control of these oral diseases and their complex aetiologies.

Current Research Initiatives Include:

  • Proteomics and structural genomics of oral pathogens
  • Oral bacteria and infective endocarditis
  • Polymicrobial aetiology of caries progression
  • Targeted control of oral pathogens in periodontitis
  • Determinants of oral infection in high-risk Aboriginal communities
  • Role of oral bacteria in immune development in marsupials

Key researchers in this area are:

Professor Neil Hunter Associate Dean (Research) BDS, PhD, FRCPA
Dr Ky-Anh Nguyen BDS(Hons), PhD
Dr Christina Adler PhD
Dr Jinlong Gao PhD
Dr Ramin Farahani PhD
Dr Munira Xaymardan BDS, MPH, PhD
Dr Mangala Nadkarni BSc, MSc, PhD
Dr Derek Harty BSc(Hons), PhD
Dr Manish Arora BDS,MPH, PhD

Transitional / Clinical Research

Periodontal Regeneration / Gingival Recessions, Implants/Peri-implantitis, Photodynamic Therapy, HIV – Periodontal Unit

The aim of the research project “Periodontal Regeneration/Gingival Recessions” is to investigate the combined use of enamel matrix proteins and a xenogenic connective tissue graft to cover gingival recession defects. The idea of using enamel matrix proteins is to improve the long term stability of the soft tissue coverage by creating a new connective tissue attachment. The use of a xenogenic connective tissue graft would waive the harvesting of an autogenous connective tissue graft, thus reducing the time of the surgery and the discomfort to the patient.

The current aim of the research focus “Implants/Peri-implantitis” is to investigate the use and efficacy of Azithromycin in combination with mechanical debridement to treat/stabilise peri-implant bone loss. Another aspect of this research focus is the long-term survival/succes rate of implants including the impact of different parameters thereon e.g. suprastructure/prosthodontic restoration.

The research project “Photodynamic Therapy” was set up to evaluate the antibacterial capacity of photoactivated disinfection to treat infected periodontal pockets.

The “HIV-project” investigates oral health referral trigger tools for people living with HIV and the impact of xerostomia on oral health and oral health quality of life among HIV-1 infected adults attending routine monitoring in Australia. Furthermore, it evaluates the oral health knowledge, attitude and practices of health care professionals (including doctors, nurses, dieticians and social workers) who work with people who have HIV and other blood borne viruses.

Key Research Supervisors in this area:

A/Professor Stephen Yeung BDS, MDS, PhD, FRACDS, MRACDS (Perio), FICD
A/Professor Axel Spahr Dr. Med. Dent. Habil., MRACDS(Perio)

Mucosal Pathologies - Oral Pathology/Oral Medicine

This department is primarily located at the Westmead Hospital Centre for Oral Health. Research work in cancer, wound healing, and cell biology is directed towards improving both the understanding of basic pathological processes and the management of disease. The departmental laboratories are very well equipped, allowing employment of a wide range of experimental methodologies to these varying projects including: tissue culture; light, con-focal, and electron microscopy; protein chemistry; molecular biology; and cell biology. A wide collaborative network provides access to further resources and expertise including mass spectrometry and micro-array technology.

Current projects include:
The anti-apoptotic activity of serum albumin; the inflammatory response of endothelium; the interaction of malignant cells with normal stromal cells, especially via 'cellular sipping'; and bony remodelling in tooth eruption and pathological processes. Related to Prof Zoellner's service as the Association for the Promotion of Oral Health (APOH) Chairman, collaborative research in areas of public health dentistry and the funding of dental services is also ongoing.

Key researchers is this area are:

Professor Hans Zoellner PhD,BDS(C1 II Hons)
Dr Stephen Cox PhD, BDS, MSc (Oral Path), FRACDS, FICD

Interventional caries Management - Population Oral Health/Clinical Epidemiology

The Population Oral Health theme is led by Professor Anthony Blinkhorn and it makes a significant contribution to national and international oral health care, policy and education. There are strong links with Centre for Oral Health Strategy (COHS) which is part of NSW Health and joint work is in progress with ARCPOH at the University of Adelaide. Innovative health services research also involves working with local health districts to encourage a research culture.

The department is currently undertaking projects to improve the oral health of aboriginal children, which are funded by grants from NHMRC , COHS and the The Dental Board of NSW. Dr David Walker, a NHMRC funded postdoctoral researcher, has been meeting with representatives of First Nation Organisations in Canada and the USA to establish joint research ventures.

Dr Amit Arora the recipient of a prestigious NHMRC Young Scientist Award is running a unique cohort study in western Sydney monitoring the establishment of feeding practices in children from birth to 4 years of age.

Dr Pathik Mehta was awarded a Colgate Scholarship to continue his research work on the assessment of water fluoridation efficacy in NSW.
The department has also established an international reputation in the field of Dental Education research with a number of papers published on the Rural Teaching Program and the use of Residential Aged Care Facilities to enhance the clinical experience of dental undergraduates and hygienists.

Professor Anthony Blinkhorn (OBE) has received two research prizes from the International Association for Dental Research ; the Aubrey Sheiliam Travel award for his work on fluoride varnish in 2012 and The Borrow Memorial Award in 2013 for ten years of research to improve the oral health of disadvantaged children.

Current projects include:
Audit of student experience in the Cariology Clinic, Sydney Dental School, University of Sydney
The Monitor Dental Practice Program
Seal Cambodia – the cost-effectiveness of sealant application on 60,000 Cambodian children
Solomon Islands national oral health survey

Key researchers in this area are:

Professor Anthony Blinkhorn BDS, MSc, PhD, FDS, FFPHM
A/Professor Wendell Evans BDS, MDS, DDSc
Dr Shanti Sivaneswaran BDS, MDS, Cert Health Econ, GradDip (Public Health)

Educational Research

Areas of focus are in student approaches to learning, eLearning, assessment practices and problem-based learning, pedagogy in clinical teaching and in benchmarking in higher education. Educational research projects have been completed in international benchmarking ( with the University of Adelaide) and in student approaches to learning in enquiry-based curricula ( resulting in three publications in refereed journals). . Funding has successful been achieved for all activities from university ( eg TIES) and external sources (eg ADRF). Currently members of the group are involved in an ALTC-funded multidisciplinary project in Australian Indigenous communication in health with the Poche Centre of the university. Research methodologies used include qualitative and quantitative and these are often strongly collaborative across the faculties of health in the university. Scholarship of teaching and learning in health education projects are designed to support, investigate and evaluate dental education and contribute to international endeavour in dental education, evidenced by conference presentations and peer-reviewed published articles. Several of these projects have been honoured by awards for the group and group members, such as that from the American Dental Education Association and University Teaching Awards. Higher degree research projects in dental education are developed to align to state or federal government dental and oral health care imperatives such as rural dental education, as an action research project and in multi-disciplinary health promotion. Research projects also align to national and international higher education policy such as current doctoral projects in translational knowledge n rural emergency medicine and dentistry, in student approaches to dental educational and the development of critical reasoning in dentistry related to assessment.

Key researcher in this area is:

A/Professor Tania Gerzina BDS, PhD, FRACDS