Research in Dentistry at the University of Sydney

25 October 2017

Meet some of our research staff and students undertaking research and driving change in dentistry health.

Associate Professor Luke Henderson

Central changes in chronic orofacial pain

Associate Professor Henderson's research looks at neuropathic pain and what anatomical changes happen in the brain to cause orofacial pain.

12 percent of individuals who have orthodontic work undertaken have some type of post-orthodontic pain.

"Once you damage a tooth nerve, the brain takes over and you can look at pain using brain imaging and get an index of neural activity."

"It has been found that once a nerve is injured and the brain sends pain signals a pain response."

In the worst cases, the pain can last for months and can feel hot, burning and severely debilitating.

"I enjoy looking at mechanisms of neurological conditions. You can look at brain imaging all the way from your tooth to the top or your head."

"I love researching in dentistry, and teeth specifically because with teeth, you can look at the entire nervous system and you often know exactly where pain started, with a dreaded tooth extraction"

Dr James Cornwell

Computation tools for recording and analysing single cell dynamics

If cell development is disturbed, such as by injury it can lead to smaller teeth, overlapping and misaligned dental tissue.

"Tooth development occurs between interactions with different cells. Cells signal to each other in order for teeth to develop."

Dr Cornwell has helped create cell tracking software and used time lapse imaging to capture the continuous observation of single cells.

"Tracking the life history of a single cell allows us to observe what happened to it. Did it divide? Did it die? This in turn can help us understand the development of teeth."

Mrs Cathryn Forsyth

Indigenous cultural competence curricula: Faculty of dentistry staff and student's perspectives

Mrs Forsyth's research looks at oral health disparities between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

"Cultural competence is fundamental to quality of life in addressing health disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people."

"Indigenous people generally had better health in 1788 than most people living in Europe. Today, indigenous populations in Australia carry the greatest burdens of disease - both in oral health and general health."

The Australian Dental Council has now instilled mandatory accreditation requirements in cultural competence.

Dr Alexander Holden

How Compliant are Dental Practice Facebook Pages with Australian Healthcare Advertising Regulations?

Complaints about dental advertising are increasing at an alarming rate. Between 2015-2016 the Dental Council of New South Wales had a 50 percent increase in advertising complaints.

On top of this, there was a 75 percent increase in all advertising related statutory offences that the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency had to deal with and 16 percent of these were dental.

"What is striking about this figure is that dental professionals make up only 3 percent of the regulated healthcare workforce."

"The National Law (2010) regulates everything that dentists do and protects the public around advertising. You can't advertise in a false misleading way, can't offer a gift or discount that doesn't offer clear terms and conditions, you can't use testimonials or say what you're offering it going to provide a health benefit. You can't encourage people to access dental services when they don't need them."

Dr Holden's research examined 266 English-speaking dental practices in the Sydney area that utilise a Facebook page. Of these, 76 percent used testimonials and 5 percent displayed misleading or false information.

"Some of the Facebook advertising implied that If you are unsuccessful in life, cosmetic dental treatment will make it better. I'm interested in why dentists are disregarding the National Law. Are we socially conditioned to want a straight white smile? Is that why dentists are flouting these regulations?"

Leanne Ng

Doctor of Dental Medicine student

Recombinant TonB-dependent receptor HusB in the hus haem uptake pathway in Porphyromonas gingivalis

Periodontal disease is something that affects a significant portion of the population and can be very challenging to treat. It is characterised by the destruction of the supporting structures of teeth, such as alveolar bone, which is why teeth become loose as theseverity of gum disease increases.

"Most people are unaware that the health of the supporting structures of teeth are actually very important because the early signs of problems are not always obvious or debilitating. As P. gingivalis has been identified as a keystone pathogen in the establishment and persistence of chronic periodontitis," says Leanne.

"Understanding how P. gingivalis is able to survive under haem limited conditions and the proteins that allow it to do so may potentially lead to new, unique functional and structural characteristics that may be used as potential targets for future therapeutic or preventative intervention methods," says Leanne.

Nibir Muhtasim Hossain and Betty Doan-Tran

Doctor of Dental Medicine students

The distortion of needle tips after administration of a Dental Inferior Alveolar Nerve Block (IANB)

Nibir and his research partner Betty Doan-Tran are hoping to make positive change in the dentisty field.

"My partner and I, wanted to do clinical research as a part of our degree. We envisioned that our clinical research could potentially create positive changes to clinical practice,"

"Local anaesthesia is an integral part of most operative dental procedures, and for the lower molars the IAN Block is commonly utilised. Post-operative complications such as trismus and paraesthesias have been linked to nerve and tissue damage sustained as a result of these local anaesthetic injections. Some past research has illustrated that the incidence of these complications may be related to degree and nature of needle tip deformation," says Nibir.

"My hope is that future research into this field will illuminate the impact other variables may have on needle tip distortion; the outcomes of which may lead to further clinical recommendations. The results of our study reiterated the need to change needles after each insertion to minimize additional tissue trauma, so I'm hoping this acts as a friendly reminder to all the clinicians out there," says Betty.