Research, part of the mission of the School of Dental Medicine, is integrated into the teaching program for a mutually beneficial relationship. Predoctoral dental students, postgraduate students, graduate students, and faculty all actively participate in this endeavor. With many of our teaching faculty involved in research, students become aware of the latest developments in the dental profession and have many opportunities to become involved in research projects with faculty.
The School of Dental Medicine is recognized nationally and internationally for its excellence in dental research and research training of DDS, MS, and PhD students. It is consistently one of the leading dental schools in the United States in grant and contract awards for research. In partnership with industry, the school has participated in the introduction of products for both the dental profession and the general public. Complementing individual faculty research interests are several centers, which bring together groups of faculty and students with common research interests.
Cancer Research Program
Oral cancer produces the highest mortality of all diseases within the scope of a dentist’s responsibilities. Oral cancer research and training efforts within the school are aimed at applying the newest biological findings to the prevention, detection, and treatment of oral cancer. The school enjoys collaborative arrangements with a number of cancer research and treatment facilities.
Active preclinical and clinical studies include studies of anti-oncogenes, endocrine control of cancer and cancer progression, photodynamic therapy, and laser surgery.
Center for Dental Studies
The Center for Dental Studies has a productive and successful history of working with industry on clinical research related to new or enhanced oral products for the treatment of oral disease. Comprehensive services are provided, including development of research protocols, performance of basic scientific and clinical studies, coordination of multicenter research, and facilitation of technology transfer to industry. The Center for Dental Studies has access to facilities and faculty throughout the university.
State-of-the-art facilities and equipment coupled with cutting-edge technology and a well-trained, research-dedicated staff enable the center to conduct research in a broad variety of areas and allow the center to effectively interact with the university’s South Campus Instrumentation Center and Periodontal Disease Research Center.
The faculty affiliated with the center include national and international leaders in dentistry, general dentists, board-certified specialists, basic scientists in dental-related research, statisticians, and computer specialists.
Industry/University Center for Biosurfaces
The National Science Foundation–sponsored Industry/University Center for Biosurfaces (IUCB) encompasses four affiliated universities: the University at Buffalo, the University of Memphis, the University of Miami, and New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred. The center emphasizes multi-investigator, multidisciplinary research and is responsive to the needs of undergraduate and graduate students and faculty wishing to cross traditional academic boundaries. IUCB offers a coordinated program among the Schools of Dental Medicine, Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and the College of Arts and Sciences.
IUCB performs basic and applied research into biomaterial interactions in systems where synthetic and natural materials come into intimate contact. Center research involves the application of surface science to biomaterials research and development, biomedical engineering, and environmental engineering. The breadth and depth of center faculty expertise in biophysics, physics, chemistry, microbiology, materials science (especially biopolymers and natural tissues), chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, and clinical sciences offer considerable advantages to associated sponsors, students, and faculty.
Infectious and Chronic Diseases Center of Discovery
The Infectious and Chronic Diseases Center of Discovery fosters multidisciplinary research on the chronic, disabling diseases of man. Emphasis is placed on diseases (periodontitis, oral cancer, viral infections, and other oral conditions) and their interactions with diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis, psychosomatic disorders (nicotine and alcohol abuse, depression, and stress), cardiovascular disease, adverse pregnancy outcomes, AIDS, and metastatic infections of oral origin. Within the scope of this center are basic biomedical and behavioral research, health-services research, educational research, and technology transfer.
Periodontal Disease Research Center
The Periodontal Disease Research Center is a specialized clinical research center for the study of periodontal disease. Past studies, focused on etiology and host responses in periodontal disease, have led to new concepts and regimes for anti-infective therapy. Recent epidemiological studies have helped to identify risk factors for periodontal disease, such as diabetes, smoking, the presence of periodontal pathogens, stress, distress, and coping measures. The center also carries out intervention studies directed at modulating risk factors for better management of periodontal disease risk populations.
Other areas of research include study of growth factors to regenerate periodontal ligament, cementum, and bone around periodontally diseased teeth; growth factors to regenerate bone around implants and in surgical defects; study of the determinants of host susceptibility in localized juvenile periodontitis, with an emphasis on abnormalities in the family of seven transmembrane chemokine receptors; and development of a novel class of natural antibiotics derived from neutrophils (termed defensins) and bactenecins.
The Periodontal Disease Research Center provides opportunities for dental and medical students, graduate students, and visiting scientists to participate in clinically oriented research. The center also serves as a regional referral center for management of severe and unusual cases of periodontal disease.
Salivary Research Center
The goal of the Salivary Research Center is to produce an artificial replacement for saliva. While saliva serves as a lubricant that facilitates the digestive process, it also protects teeth and soft tissue from a variety of bacteria and viruses. Patients who are taking some types of medications, receiving radiation therapy, or suffering from Sjögren’s syndrome frequently experience a loss or severe reduction in the production of saliva. More than merely uncomfortable, this may also lessen protection against a number of bacteria and viruses, causing rampant caries, fungal infections, and severe periodontal disease. To combat this, the Salivary Research Center is focusing on the formulation of an artificial saliva. The center already has cloned histatins and cystatins, two major proteins found in saliva. Histatins are small proteins that keep Candida albicans, a fungus normally found in the oral cavity, in check. Cystatins are larger molecules that protect oral tissues from a variety of microorganisms, including viruses and some bacteria, by interfering with enzymes thought to be involved in microbial replication. These enzymes, when released by the microbe, destroy gingival tissue.
South Campus Instrumentation Cent
This center was established to provide a rapid response to the analytical needs of both industry and the university research community. It provides for surface imaging and spectroscopy on a wide range of materials and products, including dental biomaterials. The center also provides microphotography and video production; routine analysis of materials for quality control and assurance; failure analysis testing; product research, development, and testing; and consultation for analysis strategy.
The center also plays a role in research applications for DDS students and graduate students.
Student Research Program
While there is no research requirement, dental students are encouraged to participate in the student research program, which provides stipends for research during the summer. This experience enriches their education and allows students to interact with faculty under more informal circumstances. Students who take advantage of this opportunity become more knowledgeable about their profession and are better prepared to critically review and analyze dental literature—skills necessary for future professional growth. Students are also exposed to a broader array of career options.
Many have an opportunity to present their research at such meetings as the International Association for Dental Research, American Association for Dental Research Meetings, and the annual meeting of the American Association of Dental Schools. Students have also been coauthors on published articles. Many students work in a specific area for up to four years. By compiling their results into a thesis and defending their efforts before the Student Research and Honors Committee, students graduate with thesis honors, a designation noted on their diplomas.
A large, diverse group of faculty members with research interests in basic and clinical dental science serves as mentors for student research. During the academic year, students have an opportunity to interact with faculty in order to become familiar with their specific research activities.
Research fellowships are funded by the National Institute for Dental Research, the American Association for Dental Research, the Dental Alumni Association, several endowments, the Department of Oral Biology, and the dean of the dental school.