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The Department of Prosthodontics is currently involved in several research projects that span a wide variety of interests. We have divided these into three categories:

Clinical Trials:

Tooth Replacement Study

The UNC Chapel Hill School of Dentistry, through the Department of Prosthodontics, is looking for individuals missing upper back teeth to participate in a 3-year study that compares tooth replacement using two different dental implant systems. All treatment will follow standard dental implant procedures using currently available dental implants.

Participants must be:

Participants cannot have any disease or condition requiring the use of steroids for treatment, implant placement that requires bone grafting or bone augmentation or pregnancy.

Participants will receive implant treatment and restorative crowns at reduced rates as well as complete dental exam and follow-up limited clinical evaluations for a period of 3 years. This study provides no payments to participants.

We are no longer looking for participants in this study, however, the study is still in progress.

For more information, contact the study coordinator at (919) 966-7796 or email to

Additional Research Studies:

Dr. Glenn Minsley's research interests include studying the effects of bone irradiation and osseointegration with dental and craniofacial implants. He acts as research mentor to the graduate prosthodontics student recipient of The Nobel Biocare Craniofacial Fellowship each year. The fellowship is sponsored by Nobel Biocare Inc.

Basic Science Investigation Laboratories:

Dr. Lyndon Cooper studies osteoblast responses to alloplastic environments such as dental implants. His molecular and cell biology laboratory at the School of Dentistry has developed several in vitro and in vivo models to investigate the process on osseointegration and induced bone formation. The goal of these is to define key determinants of osteoblast proliferation and differentiation in the context of artificial substrates. Defining how cells form bone in an altered environment can aid in further development of clinical strategies for bone regeneration and osseointegration.

A small group of students, post-doctoral fellows and visiting scientists work together on several projects. The major effort in the laboratory has been to define general biological stress responses of osteoblasts. Improving stress resistance of osteoblasts may increase the eventual number of osteoblasts available for bone formation. A second project has focused on the role of bone sialoprotein in osteoblast differentiation. This protein may be both an important marker of osteoblast differentiation and an important matrix determinant of bone formation at artificial interfaces. More recent efforts to define cellular responses to alloplastic surfaces include investigations of mesenchymal stem cell differentiation at bone regeneration and dental implant devices. The group's aggregate effort may one day define synergistic approaches to enhancing osteoblast viability and bone forming capacity in the context of their use as craniofacial and dental regenerative tools.

Dr. Greg Essick studies somatosensory and motor research, neural mechanisms in his laboratory located in the Dental Research Center. His current research long-term goals are (1) to characterize the orofacial somatosensory perceptual capacities of neurologically normal subjects, (2) to develop efficient, clinically useful paradigms to quantitatively evaluate the sensory capacities of patients who have experienced damage or alterations to the sensory distribution of the trigeminal nerve and/or the central neural structures to which it projects, (3) to analyze the altered sensations (and sensory capacities) which accompany the peripheral and central adaptations which are known to occur subsequent to pathology of the trigeminal system, and (4) to evaluate the contributions of input from the orofacial cutaneous low-threshold mechanoreceptors to the central neural mechanisms subserving orofacial behavior (e.g., mastication, speech, and facial expression).

Current studies involve human capacity to discriminate direction of movement across the skin and the peripheral neural mechanisms underlying this intriguing capacity. Neurophysiological studies conducted on healthy human volunteers have demonstrated that multiple peripheral mechanisms possess the capacity to encode information about direction of movement across the skin, and that these mechanisms can be differentially recruited by different modes of moving tactile stimuli delivery (viz., use of stimuli that only translate across the skin, that translate across and laterally stretch the skin, and that only stretch the skin laterally).

Dr. Essick's lab seeks to determine (1) from which of the available peripheral neural mechanisms information about direction is normally extracted by central perceptual processes, (2) upon what extent different mechanisms are relied when different modes of stimulus delivery are employed, and (3) if sensory channels and mechanisms that are normally not used can be recruited to compensate for losses in direction information subsequent to nerve injury. The answers to these questions are anticipated to clarify a number of disparate clinical observations regarding the utility of tests of direction discrimination to study nerve-injured patients and regarding differences in the sensitivity of tests which employ different modes of moving tactile stimulus delivery.

Other work conducted in Dr. Essick's laboratory attempts to assess the influence on direction discrimination of novel moving stimuli applied to normal skin so as to elicit altered patterns of nerve activity which may mimic those patterns elicited in damaged nerves. Current studies are supported by grants from NIH and Unilever Research.