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NIDCR logo   National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
Mission | Important Events | Legislative Chronology | Director | Programs | Appropriations

Until October 21, 1998, the National Institute of Dental Research


The mission of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) is to improve and promote craniofacial, oral and dental health through research. The legislation that Congress enacted in 1948 to create the institute entrusted it with national leadership in dental research, granting authority to conduct and support research and training, and promote science transfer and dissemination of information.

The goal is to minimize inherited, infectious, neoplastic, acquired and chronic craniofacial-oral-dental diseases and disorders. To that end, scientists are keen to use biomimetics to discover new biomaterials to repair and regenerate craniofacial tissues; to discover better analgesics for control of chronic pain; and to meet the challenges of changing patterns of disease, new and reemerging infections, and other challenges that threaten or compromise oral health across the life span. The NIDCR is also committed to the timely dissemination of research findings to the communities it serves.

Important Events in NIDCR History

1931 – PHS created a Dental Hygiene Unit at NIH and designated Dr. H. Trendley Dean as the first dental research worker. His primary function was to apply principles of epidemiology to a series of community studies on the oral disease known as mottled enamel. His research on fluoride showed not only its relation to mottled enamel, but also its influence on tooth decay.

1945 – Following fluoridation of the water supply in Grand Rapids, Michigan, annual examinations of children were begun to study the effects of fluoride on the development of dental caries.

1948 – On June 24, P.L. 80-755, the National Dental Research Act created NIDR and the National Advisory Dental Research Council. On September 16, the institute was established.

1949 – The first meeting of the National Advisory Dental Research Council was held on January 10. The institute-supported grants program was initiated, and the first grants and fellowships were awarded.

1954 – Results of the first 10 years of the Grand Rapids study firmly established water fluoridation as a safe, effective, and economical procedure for the control of dental caries.

On October 30, the first meeting of the Board of Scientific Counselors was held. This board was established to provide advice to NIDR on matters of general policy, particularly from a long-range viewpoint, as they relate to the intramural program.

1958 – The Laboratory of Biochemistry was established to conduct research studies on the chemistry and structure of collagen, elastin and other proteins. President Eisenhower signed the appropriations bill, which included provisions to finance the construction of a building for the dental institute.

1960 – On September 21, the cornerstone was laid for the dental institute building (Building 30) at NIH.

1961 – On May 26, DHEW Secretary Abraham A. Ribicoff dedicated the new NIDR building.

1962 – The first grant for a multidisciplinary study of cleft palate was awarded to the University of Pittsburgh Health Center.

1963 – Fifteen years of scientific accomplishment by NIDR were cited by scientists, administrators, and health educators June 14 in a special anniversary observance.

1966 – A reorganization of the institute’s extramural programs was implemented to more adequately plan and support research and training programs designed to attack the major dental diseases and disorders – dental caries, periodontal disease, oral-facial anomalies and biomaterials.

1967 – An NIDR program of grant support was initiated for the development of several dental research institutes/centers in university environments. This program was designed to utilize all of the appropriate resources of the parent universities to create ideal research and training environments, fostering interdisciplinary approaches to the complex problems of oral diseases and disorders.

1969 – The Laboratory of Histology and Pathology was reorganized and named the Laboratory of Biological Structure. This laboratory conducts basic research on the structural and chemical organization of the hard and soft tissues of the oral cavity.

1971 – The National Caries Program was launched utilizing funds specifically earmarked to accelerate development of preventive methods to reduce tooth decay.

1973 – The Laboratory of Oral Medicine was established to conduct both clinical and laboratory research on the cause, prevention, and treatment of diseases of the soft tissue of the oral cavity.

On June 28-29, a scientific conference commemorating the silver anniversary of NIDR was convened in Washington, D.C.

1974 – To encompass the expanded research studies conducted by the Laboratory of Microbiology, the Laboratory of Microbiology and Immunology was established. Laboratory programs involve the role of host factors in periodontal diseases, autoimmune diseases and allergic disorders.

To emphasize anesthesia-analgesia dental problems, the NIDR reorganized its intramural program to form a Neurobiology and Anesthesiology Branch composed of the neural mechanism section and the anesthesiology section. The branch collaborates closely with the extramural programs concerned with pain control and behavioral studies.

1975 – Having already established the safety and efficacy of several caries preventive measures, the NIDR initiated selected school demonstration projects through its National Caries Program.

1977 – The institute established its first two specialized clinical research centers in periodontal diseases.

In June, Dr. Marie U. Nylen was named director of intramural research, the first woman to hold such a position at NIH.

1978 – NIDR sponsored its first consensus development conference, Dental Implants – Benefit and Risk, to examine available data, suggest future research, and draft guidelines for implant therapy.

1980 – The Diagnostic Systems Branch was created to pursue research and development of noninvasive diagnostic techniques, and analysis of the functional development of the oral and pharyngeal region.

A Clinical Investigations and Patient Care Branch was established to emphasize the intimate association between the institute’s patient treatment and clinical dental research programs.

1982 – The Laboratory of Biological Structure and the Laboratory of Biochemistry were replaced by the Laboratory of Oral Biology and Physiology and a Mineralized Tissue Research Branch. The Laboratory of Oral Biology and Physiology conducts research on the cell biology of secretory tissues and the chemical modification of proteins. Skeletal development, regulation and disorders are under investigation in the Mineralized Tissue Research Branch.

1983 – On March 21, the NIDR opened the first multidisciplinary pain clinic in the U.S. devoted exclusively to research. The clinic provides an opportunity for all NIH researchers and clinicians to pool their knowledge and exchange ideas about the pathophysiology and treatment of pain.

The institute initiated an annual honorary lecture to recognize outstanding scientific accomplishment in basic and clinical research and to honor distinguished scientists who have made important contributions in areas of research directly related to the interests of the dental institute.

1984 – NIDR inaugurated the Dentist Scientist Award Program designed to provide opportunities for dentists to develop into independent biomedical investigators in the oral health research field.

The institute completed its Long-Range Research Plan FY 1985-89 entitled Challenges for the Eighties. Under the direction of NIDR director Dr. Harald Löe, a coordinating committee prepared this 5-year plan and summary of progress in the oral sciences and in disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The document pinpoints 14 emphasis areas for NIDR’s oral health research.

NIDR established three new specialized caries research centers in university environments to continue research investigations into the cause, treatment, and prevention of dental decay.

An NIDR reorganization disbanded the National Caries Program and created the Epidemiology and Oral Disease Prevention Program (EODPP). The EODPP is devoted to research on the etiology, incidence and prevalence of dental caries, periodontal diseases, and other oral diseases and disorders.

Also, a realignment of the administrative offices within the Office of the Director was completed. This realignment established the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Communications (OPEC).

An NIDR annual lecture series was named for a former institute director. Given each September at NIH, it is known as the Seymour J. Kreshover Lecture Award.

1985 – NIDR convened a meeting at NIH of over 160 deans and senior officials from almost every U.S. and Canadian dental school to explore key issues in dental research and education. The conference, first of its kind in NIDR history, was designed to strengthen the relationship between the institute and universities.

1986 – NIDR completed its first nationwide survey on the dental health of American adults – the most comprehensive survey of its kind ever done, and the first to look at the prevalence of root caries and periodontal disease in detail.

1988 – NIDR celebrated its 40th anniversary with a year-long agenda of commemorative activities.

NIDR funded four new oral biology research centers.

The institute released findings of its second National Caries Prevalence Study. Data show half of all American schoolchildren now have no tooth decay.

NIDR held its second consensus development conference on dental implants. According to the summary statement, the use of dental implants has increased fourfold from 1983 to 1987.

NIDR and the Fogarty International Center launched an international oral health research study to identify oral health issues that would benefit most from international collaborative research.

On May 25, NIDR named the conference room in Building 30 the “H. Trendley Dean Conference Room” commemorating the first NIDR director.

The institute launched the “Research and Action Program to Improve the Oral Health of Older Americans and Other Adults at High Risk.” The goal is to eliminate toothlessness and prevent further deterioration of oral health in individuals who have compromised dentition.

1990 – The institute completed the NIDR Long-Range Research Plan for the Nineties: Broadening the Scope, the blueprint for research in this decade. The plan establishes major initiatives geared to “special care patients” whose oral health is affected by systemic diseases or treatments and to older Americans, with the ultimate goal of eliminating toothlessness among future generations and preventing further deterioration of the oral health of individuals with compromised dentition.

1991 – NIDR hosted a symposium for dental practitioners, “Scientific Frontiers in Clinical Dentistry: An Update at the National Institutes of Health.”

The institute sponsored a technology assessment conference on the effects and side effects of dental restorative materials.

The Laboratory of Developmental Biology and Anomalies was renamed the Laboratory of Developmental Biology (LDB). LDB research aims to gain a better understanding of normal human development.

1992 – The Epidemiology and Oral Disease Prevention Program reorganized to expand the scope of EODPP activities. The program now consists of four branches: Molecular Epidemiology and Disease Indicators; Disease Prevention and Health Promotion; Analytical Studies and Decision Systems; and Health Assessment. EODPP is the federal focus for research in orofacial epidemiology and disease prevention.

A reorganization of the Extramural Program (EP) established the Program Development Branch, consisting of seven categorical programs, and an Office of Policy and Coordination. This office contains manpower development and training activities and the Program Operations Unit, which includes the Scientific Review Office, the Grants Management Office, and the Contracts Management Office. EP provides grant and contract funds for research and research training.

NIDR hosted a second meeting of the leadership form the nation’s dental schools, dental professional organizations and industry to explore ways to enhance the research capacity of dental schools.

1993 – The National Oral Health Information Clearinghouse was established as a centralized resource for patients, health professionals, and the public seeking information on the oral health of special care patients.

1994 – The intramural, extramural and epidemiology organizational components of NIDR were redefined from programs to divisions, establishing the Divisions of: Intramural Research, Extramural Research, and Epidemiology and Oral Disease Prevention (DEODP).

The DEODP was streamlined from four to three branches: Analytical Studies and Health Assessment; Disease Prevention and Health Promotion; and Molecular Epidemiology and Disease Indicators.

1995 – NIDR sponsored “Partnerships in Communication: A Meeting of Dental Editors,” which brought together for the first time at NIH more than 30 editors and executive directors of dental organizations to enhance communication among the group.

The institute met with a diverse group of representatives from pharmaceutical, biotechnology, manufacturing and other industries to develop ways to accelerate the transfer of research findings into application.

NIDR conducted more than 30 focus groups with professional organizations, NIDR staff, specialty groups, and the public toward the development of a new institute strategic plan.

1996 – The first community conference in the institute’s history was held in May for employees to review the NIDR strategic planning process to date and to discuss the NIDR mission, vision, situation audit, strategic initiatives, management principles and plans for the future.

The NIDR sponsored a technology assessment conference on the management of temporomandibular disorders.

The institute’s intramural, extramural and epidemiology organizational components were reorganized into the Division of Intramural Research and the Division of Extramural Research.

NIDR launched its World Wide Web page on the Internet, making all pertinent information available to the public and the research community.

1997 – The NIDR’s first strategic plan, Shaping the Future, was released in July. Focusing on areas of research opportunities, research capacity, and health promotion, the document serves as a critical structure within which multiple institute initiatives are undertaken.

The institute celebrated its 50th anniversary.

A reorganization within the Office of the Director created the Office of International Health, the Office of Science Policy and Analysis, and the Office of Communications and Health Education. The Office of Planning, Evaluation and Communications was eliminated.

1998 – The institute changed its name to National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research to accurately reflect its research base. NIDCR became official on October 21, 1998, with the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, H.R. 4328.

1999 – NIDCR introduced its Strategic Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. The plan is designed to support research leading to the reduction and prevention of health disparities, including those in the oral cavity, and to provide research opportunities to increase the diversity of the scientific workforce.

The Office of Information Technology was established within the Office of the Director.

2000 – The Institute hosted the first “NIDCR Patient Advocates Forum”. The conference, attended by patient advocates from 15 organizations, was designed to enhance communication between patient liaison groups and NIDCR and to bring the patient perspective to Institute planning and research.

NIDCR served as lead agency for the preparation and publication of Oral Health In America: A Report of the Surgeon General, released on May 25th. The report, commissioned by DHHS Secretary Donna Shalala, is the first of its kind to be dedicated solely to oral health.

The Institute supported the first-ever national, multidisciplinary meeting on children and oral health, “Face of a Child”, held June 12-13 in Washington, D.C.

2001 - The Division of Extramural Research was reorganized into three components: Division of Basic and Translational Sciences, Division of Population and Health Promotion Sciences, and Division of Extramural Activities.

NIDCR sponsored a consensus development conference on the Diagnosis and Management of Dental Caries Throughout Life.

The Institute released its strategic plan to eliminate craniofacial, oral and dental health disparities.

NIDCR funded five new Centers for Research to Reduce Oral Health Disparities.

NIDCR Legislative Chronology

June 24, 1948 – Public Law 80-755 established NIDR to conduct, support, and foster research investigations on the causes, treatment, and prevention of dental diseases and conditions.

August 1, 1958 – The President signed a DHEW appropriation bill which included provisions to finance construction of laboratory facilities to house NIDR.

October 21, 1998 – The institute’s name change to the NIDCR became official when President Clinton signed the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, H.R. 4328.

Biographical Sketch of NIDCR Director Lawrence A. Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D.

In September 2000, Dr. Lawrence A. Tabak was appointed as the seventh director of the NIDCR. The former director of the Center for Oral Biology, Aab Institute, at the University of Rochester in New York, Dr. Tabak also served as senior associate dean for research at the School of Medicine and Dentistry. While at Rochester, he oversaw a number of interdisciplinary research groups studying the molecular and genetic aspects of craniofacial-oral-dental conditions. He also directed graduate research training programs at the University and held professorships in dentistry and biochemistry and biophysics.

Dr. Tabak's own research focuses on mucin-glycoproteins, a group of molecules that protect all mucosal surfaces of the body. He has published extensively on the structure, biosynthesis, and function of salivary mucins and the pathogenesis of salivary gland disease and dysfunction. He has been part of the NIH community since the late 1970s, when he received his first NIDCR grant. In the early 1980s, he was an NIDCR Visiting Scientist in the former Patient Care and Clinical Investigations Branch. He has also served as the principal investigator on Institute training and research grants, as an ad hoc reviewer of the NIDCR intramural research program, as a member of the NIH oral biology and medicine study section, and as planning co-chair for an NIDCR state-of-the-science workshop on saliva and other fluid-based diagnostics.

The NIDCR director has also served in various official capacities in a number of professional organizations, including the International/American Association for Dental Research, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Society for Glycobiology. He has received numerous honors and awards for his work, including being named a fellow of the AAAS and most recently, his election to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Dr. Tabak received his undergraduate degree from City College of the City University of New York, his D.D.S. from Columbia University, and both a Ph.D. and certificate of proficiency in endodontics from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

NIDCR Directors

Date of Birth
In Office From
H. Trendley Dean Aug. 25, 1893 Sept. 17, 1948 Mar. 31, 1953
Francis A. Arnold, Jr. Dec. 30, 1910 Apr. 1, 1953 February 1966
Seymour J. Kreshover   February 1966 June 30, 1975
Clair L. Gardner (Acting)   July 1, 1975 Dec. 31, 1975
David B. Scott May 8, 1919 Jan. 1, 1976 Dec. 31, 1981
John F. Goggins (Acting)   Jan. 1, 1982 Dec. 31, 1982
Harald Löe   January 1983 June 1, 1994
Dushanka V. Kleinman (Acting)   June 1994 June 1995
Harold C. Slavkin Mar. 20, 1938 July 1995 July 14, 2000
Lawrence A. Tabak   September 2000  

Research Programs

NIDCR is the primary sponsor of dental, oral, craniofacial research and research training. Through its three extramural divisions, the institute provides funds outside its intramural laboratories and clinics in Bethesda. Funds are made available in the form of grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts, which support scientists working in institutions throughout the U.S. and in foreign countries. These scientists conduct basic, translational, patient-oriented and demonstration research to increase understanding of fundamental processes in health and disease, and to promote timely transfer and community adoption of research findings. The institute also supports research training and career development to ensure an adequate pool of research personnel.

NIDCR supports six Comprehensive Oral Health Research Centers of Discovery organized around scientific themes pertinent to diseases and disorders of the dental-oral-craniofacial complex. Each integrates basic, translational, applied biomedical and behavioral research, accelerates technology transfer, provides a vehicle for cross-disciplinary and collaborative research, and provides health professionals and the public with the latest information about oral health. NIDCR also funds five Centers for Research to Reduce Oral Health Disparities. The centers are focused on identifying factors contributing to oral health disparities and developing and testing strategies for their elimination. Each center also provides training and career development opportunities for scientists in underrepresented groups and others interested in careers in oral health disparities research.

Division of Basic and Translational Sciences

The Division of Basic and Translational Sciences supports research, research training, and career development through grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts in the fields of microbiology and microbial pathogenesis; immunology and immunotherapy; AIDS and oral manifestations of immunosuppression; biotechnology and biomaterials; developmental biology and mammalian genetics; mammalian cell regulation; physiology, pharmacogenetics and injury; and molecular and cellular neurobiology. The division has two components: the Infectious Diseases and Immunology Branch; and the Cellular and Molecular Biology, Physiology and Biotechnology Branch.

Infectious Diseases and Immunology Branch

The branch supports basic, applied, and developmental research that will provide the basis for rapid development of knowledge of the etiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of oral infectious diseases such as periodontitis, dental caries, oral candidiasis, and AIDS. Programs focus on research to elucidate the oral/systemic health connection, microbiology and microbial pathogenesis, immunology and immunotherapy, and oral manifestations of immunosuppression.

Cellular and Molecular Biology, Physiology and Biotechnology Branch

The broad scientific base of this branch explores genetic and environmental processes that affect normal and abnormal development of oral and craniofacial structures and supports cross-disciplinary studies to develop and improve natural and synthetic biomaterials used in their repair and reconstruction. Other areas of focus include tissue innervation; neuropathies; understanding and management of pain; injury, trauma and wound healing; and the physiology of salivary glands, teeth and bone.

Division of Population and Health Promotion Sciences

The Division of Population and Health Promotion Sciences supports and conducts patient-oriented and population-based research, research training, policy analysis and development, dental public health training, and related activities aimed at improving and promoting the oral, dental and craniofacial health of the nation. Specifically, the Division is responsible for supporting extramural research and research training as well as conducting analyses and programmatic activities related to population and health promotion sciences. The Division has three components: the Biostatistics Core; Clinical, Epidemiology, and Behavioral Research Branch; and the Health Policy Analysis and Development Branch.

Biostatistics Core

The Biostatistics Core provides statistical, analytic, and study design expertise to NIDCR investigators and grantees. In addition, staff collaborate on intramural studies and conduct research on statistical methods.

Clinical, Epidemiology, and Behavioral Research Branch

The Clinical, Epidemiology, and Behavioral Research Branch supports clinical research, clinical trials, epidemiologic and health services studies, and behavioral research. The specific topics of these studies cover the full range of oral and craniofacial diseases and conditions and related health determinants. This branch also is responsible for overseeing the extramural component of the Institute's health disparity research plan. Collaboration with other NIH components and with institutions in the US and abroad is designed to capitalize on scientific opportunities in oral, dental, and craniofacial research, foster diversity in the scientific workforce, and promote research activities focused on the health needs of special populations.

Health Policy Analysis and Development Branch

The Health Policy Analysis and Development Branch focuses on oral health issues of relevance for research program planning and evaluation and for national oral health initiatives. The initiatives include the oral health objectives of Healthy People 2010 and the development of the National Oral Health Plan called for in the Surgeon General's Report on Oral Health. Staff develop, oversee, and analyze oral health databases and surveys, represent the Institute on prevention and data-related activities, conduct science and health policy briefings, and direct disease prevention and health promotion initiatives. The branch also directs the NIDCR Dental Public Health Residency Program.

Division of Extramural Activities

The Division of Extramural Activities provides leadership and advice in developing, implementing, and coordinating extramural programs and policies. The Division has two components: the Grants Management Branch and the Scientific Review Branch.

Grants Management Branch

The Grants Management Branch is the focal point for all business-related activities associated with the negotiation, award, and administration of grants and cooperative agreements within the NIDCR.

Scientific Review Branch

This branch coordinates the initial scientific peer review of applications for the following mechanisms of support: center research grants, program project grants, small research grants, research conference grants, institutional training grants, short-term training and fellowship grants, Physician Scientist Awards for Dentists, Dentist Scientist Awards, Phase II awards for the Small Business Innovative Research and Technology Transfer Programs, requests for applications issued by NIDCR, certain investigator-initiated clinical trials, cooperative agreements, and all proposals for research and development contracts. The branch also coordinates, conducts, and monitors project site visits, applicant interviews, and all other aspects of the peer review process.

Division of Intramural Research

NIDCR's Division of Intramural Research conducts basic, translational, clinical and epidemiological research directed toward increasing fundamental knowledge of oral diseases and related disorders. Areas investigated include biochemistry, structure, function and development of bone, teeth, salivary glands and connective tissues; the role of bacteria and viruses in oral disease; genetic disorders and tumors of the oral cavity; cause and treatment of acute and chronic pain; development of new and improved diagnostic methods; epidemiology of dental, oral and craniofacial diseases; and oral health promotion. The division has approximately 300 employees and guest researchers in seven branches, and a series of clinical or laboratory core facilities.

The Gene Therapy and Therapeutics Branch conducts research related to the diagnosis, prevention and management of oral and dental diseases. Primary efforts are directed at salivary gland gene transfer based on a detailed understanding of salivary secretion and function. These studies include investigations of xerostomia (dry mouth) and establishing criteria for evaluating salivary gland status.

The Craniofacial and Skeletal Diseases Branch studies development and structure of mineralized tissues (bones, teeth and cartilage). Emphasis is placed on acquired heritable disorders of the skeleton through research in bone and cartilage cell biology, skeletal tissue metabolism and matrix molecules - major components of most tissues and critical factors in oral tissue development, function and health.

The Pain and Neurosensory Mechanisms Branch has as its primary interests clinical and basic research on pain mechanisms, the development of new methods of assessing pain, and evaluating new approaches to pain control. Collaborative studies, including research on pain associated with cancer and diabetes, have been initiated with other institutes.

Scientists in the Oral Infection and Immunity Branch conduct basic research on mechanisms of human infectious diseases including bacterial and viral infections (including AIDS) and their role in governing interplay between oral and systemic health. Other studies focus on acute and chronic inflammatory responses, including mucosal immunity and vaccine design and development.

The Craniofacial Developmental Biology and Regeneration Branch investigates the roles and gene regulation of the extracellular matrix, a key component of connective tissue, and other cell interaction systems in embryonic development and related processes. Research focuses on such areas as normal and abnormal embryonic development of craniofacial and other tissues, cancer metastasis and wound healing.

Research in the Oral and Pharyngeal Cancer Branch is directed toward understanding the role of growth and regulatory factors in oncogenesis. Studies focus on molecular mechanisms responsible for conversion of normal cells to a malignant state.

In addition to its branches, the division operates research core facilities or single standing programs in clinical research, gene targeting, cellular imaging, molecular structural biology, matrix metalloproteinase biology, immunopathology, and molecular epidemiology.

NIDCR Appropriations – Grants and Direct Operations

Fiscal year
Total grants
Direct operations1
(Amounts in thousands of dollars)

1 Includes the intramural research program, R&D contracts, and research management and support.

This page was last reviewed on June 22, 2005 .

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