Institutes and Research Divisions
National Institute of Dental Research


Established in 1948, the National Institute of Dental Research is the primary sponsor of oral, dental and craniofacial research and related training in the U.S. Its mission, to improve adn promote oral health, is accomplished by conducting and coordinating research to establish the causes, develop better diagnostic methods and treatments, and ultimately find ways to prevent or substantially lower the risk of developing oral and craniofacial conditions; and by maintaining a cadre of trained scientists to conduct basic, clinical, and applied research.

Institute scientists and those affiliated with grant-supported NIDR programs have made great strides in improving the Nation's oral health through advances in diagnosis, treatment and prevention. NIDR has organized its efforts into three major components: the Division of Extramural Research, which provides grant and contract funds to the scientific community for research and research training; the Division of Intramural Research, centered in NIDR's laboratories and clinics in Bethesda, Md.; and the Division of Epidemiology and Oral Disease Prevention, which sponsors epidemiologic studies of oral diseases, engages in controlled clinical trials of potential preventive agents an regimens; and promotes their dissemination to the dental profession and the general public.

Together, NIDR's three organizational divisions conduct and support basic research in biochemistry, microbiology, immunology, physiology, anatomy, histology, cell and molecular biology, genetics, pathology, bioengineering, and the social and behavioral sciences. NIDR also sponsors clinical, epidemiological and applied studies in the oral health sciences.

The institute promotes the timely transfer and adoption of research findings by the public, health professionals, and the research community. NIDR collaborates with other U.S. Government organizations within and outside the NIH, with health professional and voluntary associations and industry, and with health professional and voluntary associations and industry, and with investigators internationally in developing and implementing research programs of mutual interest.


Important Events in NIDR 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, Mich., 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. Lö e, 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 dental school in the U.S. and Canada 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 memory of 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 the prevention of 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 established the Program Development Branch, consisting of seven categorical programs and an Office of Policy and Coordination, which contains the 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 communications among the group.


NIDR 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.

Director's of NIDR

NameDate of Birth Dates of Office
H. Trendley DeanAug. 25, 1893 Sept. 17, 1948Mar. 31, 1953
Francis A. Arnold, Jr.Dec. 30, 1910 Apr. 1, 1953February 1966
Seymour J. Kreshover.........................February 1966June 30, 1975
Clair L. Gardner (Actg).........................July 1, 1975Dec. 31, 1975
David B. ScottMay 8, 1919 Jan. 1, 1976Dec. 31, 1981
John F. Goggins (Actg).........................Jan. 1, 1982Dec. 31, 1982
Harald Löe.........................January 1983June 1, 1994
Harold C. SlavkinMarch 20, 1938July 1995.........................

Biographical Sketch of NIDR Director Harold C. Slavkin, D.D.S.

In July 1995 Dr. Slavkin, former director of the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology at the University of Southern California School of Dentistry, was sworn in as the sixth NIDR director.

Born in Chicago, Ill., on March 20, 1938, he received his B.A. in 1961 and his D.D.S. in 1965 from the University of Southern California. After completing postdoctoral training at USC, he was named chairman of the department of biochemistry and nutrition at the university's school of dentistry in 1969. He served in various capacities at USC over the next 26 years, including chief of the laboratory for developmental biology in the Gerontology Center, chairman and program director of the graduate program in craniofacial biology, and director of the Center for Cranifacial Biology, a position he held for 6 years prior to his appointment as NIDR director.

In his last position Dr. Slavkin directed a team of scientists investigating the genetics of normal and abnormal craniofacial, oral, and dental development. His own studies focused on the developmental processes underlying a number of congenital and acquired craniofacial and oral defects. He was also responsible for creating the first Ph.D. program in the U.S. in craniofacial biology, a program he chaired for 10 years.

He has been active in programs to promote science appreciation and literacy at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. He helped initiate a program sponsored by the National Science Foundation that gives high school students an opportunity to work on a research project at a university. He served as executive producer and writer for a Public Broadcasting Service film called A Lifetime of Change, shown at the 10th annual conference of the International Society of Developmental Biology and the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills. He also collaborated with PBS on the production of Genetic Engineering, Why in the World? and with other educational film companies in the making of Development and Differentiation and Intercellular Communication.

A grantee since 1966, Dr. Slavkin has been a member and chair of NIDR's Board of Scientific Counselors and served as acting chief of NIDR's Laboratory for Developmental Biology and Anomalies. He also served on the NIDR Blue Ribbon Panel that formulated recommendations to shape the future of the institute's Division of Intramural Research.

He serves on the editorial boards of the International Journal of Developmental Biology, Differentiation, Oral Diseases, and Current Opinion in Dentistry. A member of numerous professional organizations, he has authored more than 90 book chapters and over 180 publications in the field of developmental and craniofacial molecular biology.


Division of Extramural Research and Special Programs NIDR is the primary sponsor of oral, craniofacial, and dental research and research training in the U.S. Through its extramural program, the institute provides funds for biomedical and behavioral research 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 United States and in foreign countries. These scientists carry out research ranging from laboratory studies on the basic causes of oral and dental diseases to clinical trials of new public health measures for treatment and prevention. Funds are also awarded to train new researchers in certain needed disciplines. In addition to the Office of the Director, which incorporates the Office of Policy and Coordination, and Research Training and Career Development, the extramural program consists of two components: 1) the Program Development Branch with seven parts: Caries, Nutrition and Fluoride; Periodontal Diseases; Craniofacial Development and Disorders; Biomaterials, Pulp Biology and Dental Implants; Oral Soft Tissue Diseases and AIDS; Behavioral, Pain, Oral Function and Epidemiology; and Salivary Glands Research and Oral Biology Centers and 2) the Program Operations Branch, including the Scientific Review, Grants Management, and Contracts Offices. Brief descriptions are presented in the following paragraphs.

The Caries, Nutrition and Fluoride Program

Supports research on the causes, early diagnosis, prevention and treatment of caries. High priority areas include total fluoride intake, fluoride metabolism and action, caries prevention and control, fluorosis, and fluoride retention in bone and its relationship to aging and bone diseases. In the area of nutrition, research is targeted to defining the role of nutrition in oral health and the influence of compromised oral/craniofacial health on nutrition and general health.

The Periodontal Diseases Program

Supports research on the etiology, pathogenesis, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal diseases. Areas of particular interest include microbial virulence factors involved in periodontal diseases, development of assays to identify periodontal pathogens, and the role of host immune response in both the prevention and pathogenesis of periodontal diseases. The program also supports research to identify behavioral, psychosocial, environmental, and genetic risk factors for periodontal diseases.

The Craniofacial Development and Disorders Program

Supports research in cellular and molecular biology, protein chemistry, and biomineralization to improve our understanding of the causes and treatment of congenital craniofacial anomalies such as cleft lip and palate, dentofacial malrelations, and ameliogenesis imperfecta. Areas of special interest include defining the human genes for craniofacial malformations, identifying factors that regulate craniofacial development, and testing orthodontic and surgical strategies for correcting malformations.

The Biomaterials, Pulp Biology and Dental Implants Program

Supports the development of biocompatible materials for preventing oral disease and restoring damaged tissues. The pulp biology component encourages research on the development and physiology of this soft tissue and its hard dentin covering, including studies on sensitivity and pulp inflammation. Implant research focuses on improving the implant-tissue interface, developing improved implant materials, and supporting clinical trials.

The Oral Soft Tissue Diseases and AIDS Program

Fosters basic and clinical research on diseases that affect the soft tissues of the mouth, including viral, fungal and bacterial infections, and oral cancer. The AIDS component focuses on oral changes as diagnostic and prognostic indicators of human immunodeficiency virus infection and disease progression, salivary functions in HIV infection, and the role of saliva in preventing the oral transmission of HIV.


NIDR Appropriations -- Grants and Direct Operations
[Amounts in thousands of dollars]

Total Grants
Direct Operations*
1962 13,9843,35617,340
196415,252 3,91419,166
196922,859 7,12429,983
197429,169 16,396 45,565
197733,83421,739 55,573
1982 47,13724,84671,983
* Includes the intramural research program, R&D contracts, and research management and support.

The Behavioral, Pain, Oral Function and Epidemiology Program

Supports research to identify the psychosocial and prevention factors that influence the onset and progression of oral diseases and disorders and how these conditions affect the quality of life. The pain component supports studies to enhance the understanding, management and prevention of chronic and acute orofacial pain conditions such as temporomandibular disorders and burning mouth syndrome. Other program interests include research and epidemiological studies on such areas as taste, smell, thermal and tactile sensitivity disorders, and on normal and impaired oral motor function.

The Salivary Glands Research and Oral Biology Centers Program

Focuses on improving knowledge of the development, structure, function, and diseases of the salivary glands and to determine the influence of salivary constituents on oral health.

NIDR also funded 28 center grants for $18 million, approximately 15 percent of the EP budget. The center awards supported noncategorical Research Centers in Oral Biology, Oral Health in Aging Centers, Periodontal Diseases Research Centers, Caries Research Centers, Materials Science Research Centers, Clinical Dental Research Core Centers, and Regional Research Centers for Minority Oral Health. These centers not only contribute new information to oral health sciences, but provide stimulating environments for collaborative efforts and training researchers and educators.

The Research Training and Career Development Program

Supports training and career development opportunities in all the program areas of oral health research.

Under the Program Operations Branch, the Scientific Review Office coordinates initial scientific peer review of a variety of large research grant applications such as centers and program projects, training and career development applications, small grants and conference grant applications, and coordinates and conducts project site visits and other review procedures. The Grants Management Office is responsible for all fiscal management activities associated with the review, negotiation, award, administration, and termination of grants. The Contracts Management Office has responsibility for all matters relating to solicitation, negotiation, award, and administration of research and development contracts.


Contracted Research Studies

NIDR's contracted research activities of the extramural and intramural research programs and the Epidemiology and Oral Disease Prevention Program fund studies to readily translate advances in the basic sciences to disease-oriented applied research as well as to provide support complementary to basic science investigations. Interagency agreements with other Federal agencies have also been utilized to provide support toward these NIDR goals.


Division of Intramural Research NIDR's intramural research program conducts basic and clinical research directed toward increasing fundamental knowledge of oral diseases and related disorders. The latest techniques in biomedical science--particularly those of molecular biology, immunology and cell biology--are used. Areas under investigation include the 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; studies on the cause and treatment of acute and chronic pain; and the development of new and improved diagnostic methods. The intramural research program has approximately 300 employees and guest researchers in eight laboratories, a dental clinic and a pain research unit.

The Clinical Investigations and Patient Care Branch conducts research related to the diagnosis, prevention and management of oral and dental diseases. Primary efforts are directed at understanding regulation of events involved in salivary secretion. Other studies focus on xerostomia (dry mouth), establishing criteria for evaluating salivary gland status and developing treatment for hypofunctional glands.

The Bone Research Branch studies the development and structure of 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 Neurobiology and Anesthesiology 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.

The Laboratory of Oral Medicine conducts basic and clinical research on viral infections, autoimmune disorders and endocrine diseases. Studies focus on development of transgenic mice to study genes and proteins of HSV and human immunodeficiency virus. Research is also aimed at cloning and sequencing autoantigens, which play a role in triggering autoimmune diseases such as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.

The Laboratory of Developmental Biology 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 Laboratory of Cellular Development and Oncology 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.

Scientists in the Laboratory of Immunology conduct basic research on mechanisms of acute and chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, periodontal disease and AIDS. Understanding the pathways of inflammation will enable investigators to devise methods to interrupt this process and ultimately halt the tissue destruction characteristic of these disorders.

Research in the Laboratory of Microbial Ecology is concerned with human infectious diseases and host immunity. Studies focus on efforts to define the disease-causing mechanisms of microbial organisms, to understand interactions between these organisms and their human host, and to develop methods to protect against disease.


Division of Epidemiology and Oral Disease Prevention This division conducts research on the etiology, distribution, and epidemiology of a broad range of oral conditions and facilitates the rapid transfer and adoption of disease prevention and oral health promotion measures by the public and the profession. DEODP consists of three branches.

The Molecular Epidemiology and Disease Indicators Branch develops, evaluates, and refines various types of cost-effective genetic and biological markers and clinical indicators for use in epidemiologic studies of oral and craniofacial conditions as well as hundreds of systematic diseases that affect oral health. Oral markers and indicators will be used to predict or detect those at highest risk of developing oral and craniofacial conditions.

The Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Branch plans and conducts analytical, experimental, and community intervention research to identify, develop, and evaluate methods for the control and prevetion of orofacial diseases and conditions, especially in high-risk populations and among special care groups. The branch also plans and conducts research designed to promote oral health and encourages transfer of scientific knowledge of disease prevention and health promotion to appropriate target groups.

The Analytical Studies and Health Assessment Branch analyzes patterns of oral diseases and disorders and the need for and utilization of dental treatment and dental delivery systems.