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  


Dr 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 Biomaterials and Adhesive Dentistry

    • Engineering the dentine collagen fibrils through crosslinking and biomodification.  The structural, chemical and mechanical properties of dentine collagen matrix were engineered and modified through the use of various crosslinking approaches including photo-activated riboflavin compounds, proanthocyanidins and chitosan formulations for potential applications in restorative, preventive and adhesive dentistry.  The failure of resin-bonded restorations is a main reason for tooth-coloured restoration failure.  This can exert significant impact on patients.  Photo-activated riboflavin as a potential crosslinking agent and MMPs inhibitor was therefore investigated extensively to  improve the longevity of resin-bonded restorations through enhancing the structural and mechanical stability and degradation resistance of dentine collagen matrix.

    • Formulation of chitosan/riboflavin modified resin-based dentin primers for use in adhesive dentistry.  This novel preliminary formulation of dentin resin-primer able aims to sustainably reinforce, crosslink and bond to demineralised dentine collagen fibril networks through a combination of  micromechanical entanglement and chemical adhesion.

    • The interaction between dental hard tissue and high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU). This aims to facilitate biofilm removal, caries excavation and surface treatment.

    • Modification of dental tooth-colored restoratives and bonding systems with antibacterail and reinforcing nano-particles and nano-powders for enhancing of clinical performance.

Principal Investigators  
Dr Amr Sherif Fawzy

 

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 encompasses the derivation and characterisation of clinically applicable cell types from human embryonic stem cells including neural crest, mesenchymal, endothelial and neural progenitors.  Subsequently, these will be used for cell-based therapies and in tissue engineering through lineage analysis and cell-materials interactions. Towards this end, novel injectable natural biopolymer hydrogels and delivery systems are being developed to influence stem cell fate and morphogenesis.  This will pave the way for the development of injectable therapeutics for wide applications in treatment of craniofacial defects and abnormalities. Animal models through xenotransplantation are used to establish the stem cell potency and derive tissue functionality. Immunohistochemistry, histopathological analysis and functional testing are also widely used to support this area of research.  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.

Principal Investigators  


A/P Cao Tong


Dr Toh Wei Seong

Dr Vinicius Rosa

 

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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