Discipline of Oral Sciences

The Discipline of Oral Sciences comprises Dental Public Health, Oral Biology, Dental Materials and Basic Sciences.  This multi-disciplinary set-up facilitates a confluence of a broad spectrum of clinical, scientific, research and public health expertise to yield a rich synergy across the dental and basic sciences.  It also works closely with the other clinical disciplines in the Faculty of Dentistry and complements their efforts in education, research and service. 

The Discipline of Oral Sciences is actively involved in undegraduate and graduate education as well as research.

EDUCATION

UNDERGRADUATE

Dental Public Health
This dental specialty is concerned with the prevention and control of oral diseases and the promotion of oral health among populations and individuals.  The undergraduate Dental Public Health curriculum equips students with the knowledge and skills to

  • prevent oral diseases and complement the holistic clinical management of patients with appropriate preventive interventions;

  • plan and provide patient-centric and community-focused oral health promotion efforts and

  • develop critical thinking and self-directed learning skills to engage in the practice of evidence-based dentistry.


The curriculum extends throughout the four years of undergraduate education and covers the following:

  • Principles of Public Health and their application in dentistry
  • Epidemiology of oral diseases
  • Cariology
  • Ageing and geriatric oral health needs
  • Basic research methodologies and biostatistics
  • Appraisal of scientific literature
  • Evidence-based dentistry
  • Prevention of oral diseases across the lifespan
  • Planning, organisation and evaluation of community oral health promotion programmes
  • Dental care administration and health services


Oral Biology
Oral Biology is an integral part of pre-clinical education and seeks to introduce the students to the oral-facial region.  Leveraging on a multi-disciplinary approach, this module is delivered in the first year and aims to integrate the development, anatomy, histology, physiology and function of the oral-facial complex which includes the bones, joints, mucsles, teeth and periodontium.  A core foundational module, Oral Biology deepens the students’ appreciation and understanding of the various components of the oral-facial region and prepares them to manage their patients in their clinical years of training.   

Dental Materials 
Dental materials form an important and indispensable part of dental practice.  This module

  • introduces the students to the diverse range of materials used in clinical dentistry;

  • enhances their understanding of the scientific and clinical properties of these materials as well as their indications and limitations.  This will allow the students to confidently sleect, handle and use these materials in the clinics. 

  • aims to nurture an interest in dental materials science among the students.


    Taught in the first two years of the dental undergraduate course, this module is another foundational milestone to prepare the students for their clinical training.

    A blend of teaching pedagogies are employed for the Discipline’s undergraudate teaching.  These include lectures, small-group learning, fieldtrips, laboratory sessions and project work.

 

GRADUATE

In addition to undergraduate eductaion, the Discipline of Oral Sciences also engages in graduate education.  One of its key focus is developing research and basic science competencies among its Masters and PhD residents.  The key objective of these graduate eduation initiatives is to enhance the residents’ understanding of microbiology, immunology and molecular biology in the current literature.  It also equips them with hands-on sessions covering basic microbiology techniques, anaerobic culture, sampling of subgingival plaque and root canal samples from patients, molecular and biochemical-based identification of oral pathogens in clinical samples, and analysis of inflammatory mediators in oral fluids.

 

RESEARCH


The Discipline of Oral Sciences is actively engaged in the following research areas:

  • Oral Systemic Links
  • Oral Microbiology
  • OMICS Biology for Microbial Biofilms
  • Biomaterials Engineering
  • Dental Materials and Adhesive Dentistry
  • Regeneration, Bioengineering and Oral-Systemic Applications
  • Biophotonics and Caries
  • Biophotonic/laser application on caries detection, prevention and treatment
  • Caries risk assessment/prediction with biopsychosocial models and unconventional computational modeling
  • Dental Public Health – Ageing and Oral Health Related Quality of Life; Tobacco Cessation Practices among Oral Healthcare Professionals; Oral Health Care in Long-term Care Facilities

 

Modern facilties are available to conduct a wide range of research in molecular microbiology, oral immunology, dental materials research, protein analysis, PCR and tissue culture.

Oral-Systemic Disease Link and Oral Microbiology

Oral bacteria exist mainly in biofilms, which consist of a diverse consortium of oral bacteria embedded in a polysaccharide matrix tightly adherent to tooth surfaces and oral tissues. Oral biofilms are inherently more resistant to antimicrobials and host defences. Plaque biofilms are the primary aetiological agent of dental caries, periodontal diseases and endodontic infections. Increasingly, poor oral health has been linked to systemic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The research foci in this area include

  • host immune responses and intracellular signalling pathways in oral infections;

  • oral inflammation as a contributing factor to systemic diseases;

  • fabrication of chair-side devices to determine the success of root canal treatments and

  • identification and testing of novel compounds against oral biofilms.

  • proteomics, metagenomics studies on oral and fungal biofilms and host-micorbial interaction

 

Principal Investigators  


A/P Tan Kai Soo

 

Dr Jayampath Seneviratne

 

Caries Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

  • Biophotonic modulation of laser-enamel interaction.  Biophotonic application in caries diagnosis, treatment, and prevention is a multi-disciplinary research area involving collaborators from Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Radiology, and Engineering  (including biochemical, biomedical, electrical, and mechanical engineering). The team is investigating the enamel crystalline structure and cariostatic mechanisms related to laser-induced prevention of enamel demineralisation, leveraging on non-linear optical techniques such as epi-third and second harmonic generation microscopic imaging (Chen et al., 2008), multi-photon fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (Lin et al., 2010), micro-Raman, and LIF.

  • Early Childhood Caries risk assessment/prediction with biopsychosocial models and unconventional statistical computation.  This project has mapped out the interaction between carious risk factors/indicators and built a prediction model for pre-schoolers. Currently, the team is collecting pre-/peri-/post-natal determinants to build various prediction models through collaboration with experts in immunology, genetics, bioinformatics, decision science, computer science, epidemiology, health economics, food science, and clinical/medical disciplines (such as paediatrics, obstetrics/gynaecology and endocrinology)

Principal Investigators  
A/P Stephen Hsu

 

Dental Public Health
The research areas in this domain include

  • Tobacco Control and Oral Health.  The role of the oral health care professional in tobacco cessation efforts is being explored.

  • Ageing and Oral Health.  With an inreasingly ageing population, the impact of oral disease on the elderly population is a growing area of research interest.  Studies related to the impact of oral health and disease on the quality of life of seniors have been carried out.  In addition, research into the oral health care needs among residents in long-term care facilities is also being conducted. 

  • Behavioural Science and Dental Practice

 

Principal Investigators  


A/P Wong Mun Loke
Adjunct Assistant Professor Teresa Loh

 

Regeneration, Bioengineering and Oral-Systemic Applications

    • Craniofacial and Dental Development, Diseases, and Diagnostics.  About three-quarters of birth defects in humans are craniofacial abnormalities.  This can occur at any stage of development due to perturbations affecting patterning, migration, proliferation and differentiation of neural crest cells. Much progress has been achieved in understanding the genetic cause of craniofacial abnormalities.  However, relatively insufficient information exists concerning the teratogenic effects of chemical compounds and nanomaterials on human craniofacial and dental development.  This area of research leverages on human embryonic stem cells as a model to study craniofacial development.  In so doing, a cellular system can be developed to screen for developmental craniofacial toxicity (DCT) in teratogenic compounds and nanomaterials.  With gene profiling, micro-fluidics and high-throughput technologies, the long-term research goal is to establish an in vitro cellular model system that can accurately predict the DCT of teratogenic compounds and nanomaterials in the environment to better inform health and environment authorities thereby reducing the need for in vivo testing.

    • BioEngineering, Regeneration, and TherapeuticsThis research area encompasses the derivation and characterisation of clinically applicable cell types from various sources of human stem cells for applications in dental and craniofacial tissue regeneration. Present research also characterize exosomes and extracellular vesicles secreted by mesenchymal stem cells and to elucidate their biogenesis, uptake and mechanism of action in wide spectrum of craniofacial tissue defects including dental pulp, bone and cartilage defects and diseases such as osteoarthritis and periodontitis. For effective delivery, novel biomaterial scaffolds and delivery systems such as injectable hydrogels and decellularised tissue matrices are also being developed. Animal models through xenotransplantation are used to establish the efficacy of these therapeutics and derived tissue functionality, and techniques including immunohistochemistry, histopathological analysis and functional testing are routinely performed. The long-term research goal is to develop clinically applicable stem cell and biomaterials-based therapeutics for the repair and regeneration of craniofacial defects including cartilage, bone, subcutaneous fat and soft tissues to enhance the delivery of oral healthcare.

    • Bioengineered Organoids and Organ-on-Chip Systems:
      Cells of the craniofacial region are organized in a three-dimensional (3D) microenvironment and interact with surrounding cells and extracellular matrix (ECM) in 3D space. On the contrary, most of the current in vitro culture methods rely on monolayer cultures.  These reductionist methods are increasingly recognized to be unable to recapitulate in vivo tissue responses. Advances in tissue engineering and biomaterials have provided the tools for culture of single and multiple populations of cells in 3D (sometimes referred to as organoids, organotypic cultures and/or tissue equivalents).

      Towards bridging the gaps between conventional culture methods and human craniofacial tissues and organs, novel 3D organotypic culture methods and organ-on-chip devices are being developed. This will enable superior recapitulation of physiological organization of the cells and ECM in 3D and their associated function in health and diseased states. Microfluidic organ-on-chip devices offers the advantage of fluid flow and fine control of the microenvironment including the supply of nutrients, drug molecules, drainage of waste metabolites and control over temperature, gas concentration and humidity. The long-term goal is to develop tools and technologies to allow physiologically relevant in vitro organization and function of three-dimensional (3D) human craniofacial tissues to enable better in vitro models for basic and translational research.

Principal Investigators  


A/P Cao Tong


Dr Toh Wei Seong

 

Dr Vinicius Rosa
Dr Sriram Gopu

 

Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme
In line with the Faculty’s drive to inculcate a research culture and foster the practice of evidence-based dentistry among the students, the Discipline oversees the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP).  Through this programme, all students are exposed to basic research methodology and protocols as they carry out projects in small groups under the supervision of the Faculty staff.  Over a two-year period, the students complete their projects in their final yea and present their project findings at the annual Faculty Research Day.  Many groups have since gone on to presented their UROP projects at regional and international dental conferences.

 

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