Research carried out by members of the Oral Microbiology and Dental Health research theme covers a broad, cross-disciplinary, range of topics. All topics address some aspect of major oral health problems, such as tooth decay (caries) and gum disease (gingivitis and periodontal disease), which are some of the most widespread human infectious diseases.
The development of in vitro oral biofilm systems, for example, provides a novel approach to studying the microbial interactions that underlie dental health and disease. Specific oral biofilm research on plaque mineralisation could provide improved ways of strengthening tooth enamel and controlling calculus. The study of microbial adhesion examines the attachment of pathogenic organisms to host tissues or to other microbes in the oral biofilm and this, too, could lead to new ways of preventing and treating oral disease. Development of drug resistance by oral pathogens is an increasing problem which is being addressed in several ways: by investigating the diversity of microbial mechanisms of resistance; by developing purpose built 'designer antimicrobials'; and by studying the naturally antagonistic bacteriocins which are produced by some oral bacteria to kill other potentially harmful bacteria. Initiatives in forensic dentistry involving microbial genetics could improve the quality of forensic evidence, while research in dental epidemiology aims to document the occurrence and consequences of a range of infectious dental diseases. Two recently initiated projects involve mining microbial genomes to identify genes associated with pathogenicity in Candida albicans, and an investigation of iron acquisition by periodontal pathogens.
The research can be split into the broad research topics listed below. Click on these links to get a brief description of specific research programmes. Further details of individual research projects and references to published papers can be found in the section on Theme researchers. More general news articles on theme-related research can be seen in the Theme news & events section.
Researchers from the Oral Microbiology and Dental Health Research Theme gratefully acknowledge funding from the:
- Health Research Council of New Zealand;
- Lotteries Board;
- Marsden Fund;
- New Zealand Dental Research Foundation;
- Otago Medical Research Foundation;
- University of Otago Research Committee;
- Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust;
- Japan Health Sciences Foundation; and the
- National Institutes of Health, USA