Institutes and Research Divisions
National Institute of Dental Research


The mission of the National Institute of Dental Research (NIDR) is to improve and promote craniofacial, oral and dental health through research. The legislation that Congress enacted in 1948 to create NIDR 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 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 NIDR is also committed to the timely dissemination of research findings to the communities it serves.

NIDR has organized its efforts into two components: the Division of Extramural Research, which provides grant and contract funds to the scientific community for research and research training and the Division of Intramural Research, which conducts NIDR-funded research projects on the Bethesda, Md., campus.

Together, NIDR's organizational divisions conduct and support basic research in biochemistry, microbiology, immunology, developmental biology, physiology, virology, cell and molecular biology, genetics, pathology, biomimetics, and the social and behavioral sciences. The institute also sponsors clinical, epidemiological and applied studies in the oral health sciences.

The NIDR promotes the timely transfer and adoption of research findings by the public, health professionals, and researchers. Institute scientists collaborate with other U.S. Government organizations within and outside the NIH, with health professional and voluntary organizations and industry, and with investigators internationally in developing and implementing research programs of mutal 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.

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

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 the areas of research opportunities, research capacity, and health promotion, the document will serve as a critical structure within which multiple institute initiatives will be undertaken.


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

NIDR is the primary sponsor of dental, oral, craniofacial research and research training. Through its Divison of Extramural Research, 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 the fundamental processes in health and disease, to promote the 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.

In addition to the Office of the Director, which incorporates the Research Training and Career Development, the division consists of the Program Development Branch, which includes inherited diseases and disorders; infectious diseases; neoplastic diseases; chronic disabling diseases; biomaterials, biomimetics and tissue engineering; and behavior, health promotion and environment--as well as clinical trials and clinical core centers; diversity initiatives; comprehensive centers of discovery; and technology transfer. The Program Operations Branch includes the scientific review, grants management, and contracts offices.


Program Development Branch

The Inherited Diseases and Disorders Program supports research from molecular biology to clinical investigations on normal dental-oral-craniofacial development and on the etiology, pathogenesis, epidemiology, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of inherited diseases and disorders such as ectodermal dysplasia, cleft lip and palate, amelogenesis imperfecta, dentinogenesis imperfecta, osteogenesis imperfecta, and other inherited diseases that have oral manifestations. Research on developmentally related disorders such as occlusion defects and those acquired through trauma are included.

The Infectious Diseases Program supports research on the etiology, pathogenesis, epidemiology, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of oral infectious diseases such as dental caries, periodontitis, oral candidiasis, herpes, hepatitis, and HIV/AIDS. Research on immunity is included with special emphasis on mucosal and salivary immunity, and on the oral manifestations of systemic infectious diseases and the development of new diagnostics and therapeutics.

The Neoplastic Diseases Program funds basic, translational, patient-oriented, and community-based research on the etiology, pathogenesis and metastasis, epidemiology, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of oral and pharyngeal neoplastic diseases.

The Chronic Disabling Diseases Program supports the full range of research involving chronic diseases associated with the dental-oral-craniofacial complex. These include nonheritable and postnatally acquired diseases and conditions; temporomandibular joint disorders; neuropathies and neurodegenerative diseases, including those involving oral sensory and motor functions; and autoimmune diseases. Included is research elucidating the relationships between chronic diseases of the dental-oral-craniofacial complex and systemic diseases.

The Biomaterials, Biomimetics and Tissue Engineering Program supports basic, translational, and patient-oriented research to enhance the development of natural and synthetic therapeutics and biomaterials used for the repair, regeneration, restoration, and reconstruction of dental-oral-craniofacial molecules, cells, tissues, and organs.

The Behavior, Health Promotion and Environment Program supports basic, patient-oriented, and community-based research aimed at assessing the interactive roles of sociological, behavioral, economic, environmental, genetic, and biomedical factors in dental-oral-craniofacial diseases and disorders. These include examining the impact of oral health care delivery systems, clinical decisionmaking, and health promotion on health outcomes.

The Diversity in Research Portfolio enhances research on minority dental-oral-craniofacial health issues, expands the diversity of the scientific work force, and increases the research capacity of minority institutions and of those serving primarily minority populations. These objectives are achieved through the Regional Research Centers for Minority Oral Health and the Collaborative Opportunities for Research Minority Oral Health grants; through supplements to research grants supporting minority individuals at the high school, undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral and career investigators levels; and through collaborative funding through the NIGMS’s MARC ( Minority Access to Research Careers) and the MBRS (Minority Biomedical Research Support) grants.

The Clinical Trials and Clinical Core Centers Portfolio recognizes the increasing need to establish a strong foundation for the support of meritorious clinical research. The Clinical Core Centers provide the administrative, scientific and technical core resources to support clinical dental-oral-craniofacial research, including clinical trials. Short-term training is provided in the design and conduct of single- and multicenter clinical trials through the Research Training and Career Development Program.

The Technology Transfer Portfolio responds to the institute’s increasing partnering with industry in the identification, development, translation and commercialization of new technologies resulting from dental-oral-craniofacial research. It expands on the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant programs, which seek to increase the role of the private sector in cooperative research and development as well as commercialization of innovations from federally sponsored research.

The Research Training and Career Development Program ensures the future of dental-oral-craniofacial research by developing an outstanding and diverse scientific workforce through programs designed for undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral stages of education and for continued career development of scientists and retraining of midcareer scientists.

Comprehensive Oral Research Centers of Discovery are each organized around a scientific theme pertinent to diseases and disorders of the dental-oral-craniofacial complex. Each integrates basic, translational, applied biomedical and behavioral research, accelerates science-technology transfer, provides a vehicle for cross-disciplinary and collaborative research, and provides health professionals and the public with the latest information about dental-oral-craniofacial health.

The NIDR also funded 31 center grants for just over $21 million, which was approximately 16 percent of the DER grant budget. These awards supported five Research Centers in Oral Biology, two Oral Health in Aging Centers, three Periodontal Diseases Research Centers, three Caries Research Centers, three Craniofacial Anomalies Research Centers, three Materials Science Research Centers, four clinical Dental Research Core Centers, four Regional Research Centers for Minority Oral Health, and four Oral Cancer Research Centers.


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.


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, and 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 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 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 the 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 the 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.

The Oral Health Promotion, Risk Factors, and Molecular Epidemiology Branch conducts research on the 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. Branch scientists investigate patterns of and genetic basis for a number of oral, craniofacial and systemic diseases and disorders. In addition, branch scientists are involved in analytical, experimental, and community intervention research to identify, develop, and evaluate methods for the control and prevention of orofacial diseases and conditions, especially in high-risk populations and among special care groups.

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, and immunopathology.