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We aim to improve lives and reduce the burden of oral disease by making new discoveries in oral health through research. In 2014, we established the Duke-NUS Oral Health Academic Clinical Programme to advance our academic medicine efforts and to facilitate collaboration across different institutions to maximise the power of shared knowledge and resources.

Our collective of clinician-scientists and clinician-innovators is actively involved in the pursuit of translational research to improve patients’ lives. Nearly 45 per cent of all clinical staff who are registrars or more senior, are involved in research. Our achievements include:

  • Winning $10.26 million in competitive grants, talent awards and industry funding between 2013 to 2018
  • Supporting 8 clinicians in obtaining international PhDs in oral health research

We focus on the following four key research themes with the greatest potential for translation of discoveries to clinical application, namely:

  1. Clinical Tissue Engineering
  2. Oral Devices and Therapeutics
  3. Oral Health and General Health
  4. Oral Health and Ageing

Clinical Tissue Engineering

Despite significant progress in the field of tissue engineering, challenges remain that limit the translation of success in the laboratory, to the clinic. This research programme aims to deliver engineered tissues to patients. It has five tissue focus groups – bone, skin, dental tissues, neural tissues, and salivary gland.

The group aims to:

  • Identify and develop solutions to challenges in integrating cells, biomaterials and biomolecules into safe and effective products for tissue engineering in humans
  • Develop common platform technologies to support the regeneration of multiple tissue types and organs
  • Collaborate with basic scientists and bioengineers to co-develop innovative biomaterials for tissue regeneration

Significant achievements:

  • Development of the Cellompic chip to identify and modify biomaterial surfaces that can influence cell behaviour
  • Development of 3D-printed bioresorbable scaffolds to provide favourable conditions for dental implants in the jaw bone

Oral Devices and Therapeutics

Dentistry is a profession that intensively uses instruments, devices, biomaterials, and topical treatments. Recent technological advancements have spurred our researchers to develop new oral devices, treatments and techniques to treat common dental conditions. This programme aims to:

  • Develop and validate 3D printing as a new method for fabricating dental prostheses and implants for dental rehabilitation
  • Develop new devices to reconstruct the human jaw, which would restore oral function
  • Develop polymer-based controlled release fluoride devices to prevent tooth decay
  • Develop locally administered treatments for gum disease that work by modulating inflammatory responses

Significant achievements:

Oral Health and General Health

Poor oral health, particularly conditions such as gum disease (periodontitis) caused by infection and chronic inflammation, is linked to many systemic diseases. For example, oral bacteria may directly cause infection of distant organs, such as the heart or lungs. Additionally, bacterial infection in the mouth may trigger inflammatory or immunological responses that result in damage to distant tissues or organ systems. This research programme aims to:

  • Advance wellness in dental and diabetes clinics to screen dental patients, particularly those with gum disease, for diabetes, and diabetic patients for gum disease because there is a bidirectional link between gum disease and diabetes
  • Develop new saliva-based tests for clinical applications
  • Study the oral microbiome in health and disease
  • Identify salivary biomarkers for head and neck cancer

Significant achievements:

Oral Health and Ageing

Residents aged 65 years and above comprise 13.7 per cent of Singapore’s resident population, and this proportion is set to increase to 20 per cent in 2030. Recognising that oral health is of great importance for wellbeing, especially among the elderly, we conduct research to:

  • Determine the oral health needs, utilisation of dental services and barriers to care in the elderly
  • Assess caregivers’ perceptions of oral health, treatment and educational issues affecting access to dental care for the elderly
  • Develop oral health intervention programmes to prevent and control oral diseases in the elderly
  • Develop a teledentistry model to improve access to dental care for the elderly

Significant achievements:

  • Development of a behavioural intervention to improve oral health in patients with mild dementia and mild cognitive impairment
  • Development of a teledentistry model to improve access to dental care for elderly with Parkinson disease