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In June 1948, President Harry Truman signed Public Law 755 that created the then National Institute of Dental Research, a national investment in oral health research. Six decades later, widespread fluoridation of our community water supplies still stands as a major public health breakthrough whose benefits have touched millions of Americans. Other key advances made possible by NIDCR support include the seminal discovery that dental caries, or tooth decay, is an infectious disease, as is        periodontal, or gum disease.

The U.S. public has derived immeasurable benefits from these investments through improvements in dental health, but also in a wide array of health issues ranging from autoimmune disease to craniofacial birth defects to chronic orofacial pain to oral cancer.

What does the future hold for oral health? The investments we make today will create an exciting tomorrow for oral health prevention. Six decades from now, dentistry should be integrated into the primary health care network of the nation. Bioengineers will have succeeded in creating a lab-on-a-chip that will be placed on a small orthodontic bracket within the mouth. This powerful device will enable real-time surveillance of hundreds of biomarkers to signal the earliest moments of disease—not just oral health conditions, but those affecting the rest of the body.

Dental drills will be a thing of the past. Specialized biomaterials such as rinses and biological implants will prevent biofilm formation on teeth, thus averting tooth decay. Standard equipment in dental offices will include imaging devices that can scan for and spot any unusual sores inside a patient's mouth and even look for problems in other organs, through detection of sentinel molecules in saliva.

Disfiguring birth defects and traumatic injuries from accidents, war, or other violence will be repairable either through the use of small molecules that activate developmental pathways in stem cells within the body or through the use of tissue-engineered replacements. New approaches to treating chronic pain will erase the lost productivity that used to be typical for chronic conditions like temporomandibular muscle and joint disorders.

Dry mouth caused by the destruction of salivary gland tissues by autoimmune disease or cancer will not occur, thanks to gene-transfer or small-molecule therapies. Head and neck cancers will be rare, due to effective prevention methods or tests that detect disease at the earliest moment of inception.

Sidebar: State-of-the-Art Transplant Center

The blood-forming tissue inside our bones may be a gold mine for 21st-century oral health and beyond, thanks to innovative research from an NIDCR scientist.  A new clinical research facility just coming online aims to harvest bone marrow stromal cells (a type of "support" cells) and use them to nurse damaged tissues to begin the healing process. Pamela Robey, Ph.D., chief of NIDCR's Craniofacial and Skeletal Diseases Branch in its Division of Intramural Research, is leading a novel, trans-NIH project that will harness the healing power of the bone marrow stromal cells. These seemingly magical cells can be coaxed to become cartilage, bone, marrow, or fat.  The Bone Marrow Stromal Cell Transplantation Center is now establishing procedures to process donor marrow into clinical-grade human bone marrow stromal cells that can reconstruct bones of the head and face. The hope is that since bone marrow stromal cells are easily accessible, they may also find use for treating other conditions such as joint and connective tissue disorders. According to Robey, recent studies suggest that the cells are also useful for tamping down the immune system, which is necessary for treating autoimmune disease and other conditions. Robey and her team continue to look for ways to grow large quantities of bone marrow stromal cells in a clinical setting. This includes finding surface markers or molecular bar codes to identify them precisely after growing them in culture, and getting the cells to grow as they do during normal development in a three-dimensional environment built from various different types of biomaterials. Dozens of investigators, representing 13 NIH Institutes and Centers, have expressed interest in using bone marrow stromal cells for a range of purposes. The Center will operate out of the NIH Clinical Center Department of Transfusion Medicine to ready the cells for diverse clinical protocols. Robey will co-coordinate the project with Harvey G. Klein, M.D., Chief of the NIH Clinical Center Department of Transfusion Medicine.

Sidebar: Saliva Protein "Dictionary" Comes Online

For many decades, researchers have known that saliva is important for more than chewing, tasting, swallowing, and as the first step in digestion: A multitude of proteins and other molecules in saliva also play vital roles in protecting us from bacteria and viruses that can make us sick.

Now, scientists are well on their way to understanding how saliva contributes all of its healthy functions. In March 2008, an NIDCR-supported team of biologists, chemists, engineers and computer scientists at five research institutions across the country recently mapped the salivary proteome, or "dictionary," of proteins present in human saliva.

Representing saliva samples from two dozen women and men of various ethnic backgrounds, the saliva catalog contains over a thousand proteins. Over half of the proteins in saliva were also present in blood, and nearly one quarter were the same as those in tears. A database that provides scientists with the raw data from these projects is now available online.

The saliva catalog is an important first step towards being able to use saliva biomarkers to diagnose oral and systemic diseases. Saliva tests based on these biomarkers offer many advantages over blood tests that require a needle stick and can pose contamination risks from blood-borne diseases. However, much effort is still required to enrich and refine the catalog. To realize this goal, it is crucial that the research community actively participates in this effort. In the works is a collaborative, community-based Web portal that will enable scientists to add their own research data to the growing database; share results; curate the data; and discover new knowledge--further enhancing the value of the salivary proteome.


Welcome to Bloodborne Pathogens



Blood borne Pathogens and the Law

U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued regulations for the employers to protect employees from occupational exposure to blood borne pathogens.


Who needs OSHA Blood borne Pathogens Training?

Any employee who is required to handle human blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIMs) or any employee who has the potential for occupational exposure to blood or OPIMs needs OSHA blood borne pathogens training. Talk with your supervisor for more information on specific procedures performed or devices approved for use in your department.