Our Research

The Department of Pediatric Dentistry has a well-established and long history of conducting research in a wide variety of fields to improve the oral health of children. The department is currently involved in research in areas of genetics, child health services research and clinical studies. Faculty, residents, PhD students and dental students are all actively involved in interdisciplinary research projects. In addition to the descriptions below more information about the Department of Pediatric Dentistry’s diverse research program can be found at ReachNC, a web portal that enables users to search, browse and find experts and assets within North Carolina higher education and research institutions.

 

Genetics Research

The Department of Pediatric Dentistry is actively involved in craniofacial genetics research and has been a leader in this field. Current research investigates the molecular control of tooth formation and the identification and characterization of hereditary conditions involving the craniofacial complex. These studies involve human and mouse models. The department has substantial funding from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research for characterization of the phenotype and genotype of hereditary craniofacial conditions such as cleft palate and amelogenesis imperfecta. The department is also engaged in investigations to understand environment and genetic interactions of conditions such as fluorosis and determinants of bone density.

 

Child Health Services Research

Health services research is the pursuit of knowledge and the understanding of the financing, organization, delivery, and outcomes of health services. Translation to better patient care and providing policymakers and other health care leaders with information needed to make critical health care decisions. The department is actively involved in all four major domains of health services research: quality, effectiveness efficiency and ecology. More specifically, current/ongoing studies examine healthcare disparities in oral healthcare delivered to low-income young children, dental health professional shortage areas and costs effectiveness studies of publicly financed programs.

 

Faculty Research Areas

Eric T. Everett, PhD

Eric T. Everett, PhD

Eric T. Everett, PhD

  • Research Interests
    • Genetic factors underlying congenital and acquired disorders of craniofacial/oral/dental structures.
  • Current research projects
    • Molecular etiologies of non-syndromic cleft palate (CP) utilizing transgenic mice that develop CP as an autosomal recessive trait. Recently identified genes include: Ap2ß1which codes for the ß2 adaptin protein and functions during receptor mediated endocytosis; mutations in COL11A1 have been associated with Marshall syndrome, Sticker syndrome type II, fibrochondrogenesis, and Pierre Robin sequence in humans
    • Genetic determinants of dental fluorosis susceptibility/resistance
    • Pharmacogenetics of fluoride’s actions on bone cells
    • Genetics of interfrontal bone morphogenesis
  • Promising areas for future research for students
    • In vitro studies to delineate fluoride’s effects on osteoblastogenesis and amelogenesis
    • Interfrontal bone formation in mice
    • Sp3 mutation and hypoplastic amelogenesis imperfecta

 


 

divaris

Kimon Divaris, DDS, PhD

Kimon Divaris, DDS, PhD

  • Research interests
    • Diverse research interests that include both proximal and distal oral health determinants with emphasis on caries, periodontitis and children’s oral health outcomes, and span from population genetics to dental education, health disparities and oral health literacy. Also interested in methodological topics such as causality, heterogeneity, effect estimation, Bayesian applications and others.
  • Current research projects
    • Studies of the genetic basis of caries and periodontitis on the population-level using genome-wide association and sequencing methods
    • Investigations of the role of proximal and distal determinants of children’s oral health outcomes, including the topics of caregivers’ oral health literacy, quality of life, dental services utilization and costs
    • Caries-preventive efficacy of various forms of fluorides in pre-school and school-age children
    • Educational research including the topics of dental students’ well-being, sources of stress, and psychological morbidity in relation to academic environment and personality characteristics
  • Promising areas for future research for students
    • Development of a dental trauma risk assessment index
    • Development of a caries risk assessment module based on Bayesian inference
    • Evaluation of innovative educational practices and tools in undergraduate, graduate and distance dental education using quantitative and qualitative methods

 


 

Lorne Koroluk, DMD, MSD, MS

Lorne Koroluk, DMD, MSD, MS

Lorne Koroluk, DMD, MSD, MS

  • Research interests
    • Research interest including behavioral/risk aspects of dental trauma, orthodontic treatment outcomes, and web-based teaching methodologies
  • Current research projects
    • Survival analysis of space maintenance appliances
    • Cost effectiveness of serial extraction treatment
    • Utilization patterns of web-based instructional modules by dental students
  • Promising area for future research for students
    • Pilot study on the association between executive function disorder and dental trauma

 


 

Jessica Y. Lee, DDS, MPH, PhD

Jessica Y. Lee, DDS, MPH, PhD

Jessica Y. Lee, DDS, MPH, PhD

  • Research interests
    • Research interests include child health services research, health literacy and health disparities
  • Current research projects
    • Examination of oral health literacy in public health practice; in collaboration with the Gillings School of Global Public Health and Department of Psychology (NIH funded)
    • HRSA HIV demonstration project; in collaboration with the Lincoln Health Department, Guilford Health Centers, Duke Health Systems and UNC Hospitals (HRSA funded)
    • Establishing a dental home for Early Head Start children; in Collaboration with the Gillings School of Global Public Health (NIH funded)
    • Regeneration of pulp-dentin development in immature permanent teeth with pulp necrosis; subcontract with University Texas at San Antonio, PI: Ken Hargreaves, Investigator: J.Y. Lee (5 percent effort) (NIH funded)
  • Promising areas for future research for students
    • Dentists communication techniques
    • Oral health literacy and emergency room/hospital use by children
    • Oral health literacy and dental visits

 


 

Michael Milano, DMD

Michael Milano, DMD

Michael Milano, DMD

  • Research interests
    • Research interests include child behavior, dentistry for the special patient and issues related to access to dental care
  • Current research projects
    • The effect of stress on children’s memory of dental treatment. This is being done in collaboration with the Department of Psychology
  • Promising areas for future research for students
    • Examine dental practices (and possibly dental schools and grad programs) to see what the cost impact has been on providing care to a multicultural population. The federal government requires reasonable attempts to provide interpreters for a multilingual patient population but it would be interesting to see what the cost is in both dollars and manpower hours.
    • Surveys have been done to see what the perception is of pediatric dentists and changes in parenting attitudes but it would be of interest to do this from the parents’ perspective and see if they perceive a change in parenting styles

 


 

Rocio B. Quinonez, DMD, MS, MPH

Rocio B. Quinonez, DMD, MS, MPH

Rocio B. Quinonez, DMD, MS, MPH

  • Research interests
    • Research interests include, integration of oral health in medicine, perinatal and infant oral health and access to care
  • Current research projects
    • Development of a Prenatal Oral Health Program (pOHP) and its influence on prenatal care; in collaboration with the UNC School of Medicine Department of OBGYN (BCBS funded)
    • Implementing the Baby Oral Health Program (bOHP) into community health centers (BCBS funded)
    • Dissemination project to assess the influence of the bOHP kit on practicing general dentist’s in North Carolina
    • Cost-effectiveness of N.C.’s physician based oral health program delivering preventive services to Medicaid enrolled children; in collaboration with the Gillings School of Global Public Health Department of Health Policy
  • Promising areas for future research for students
    • pOHP and bOHP related activities
    • POORT related activities

 


 

Michael W. Roberts, DDS, MScD

Michael W. Roberts, DDS, MScD

Michael W. Roberts, DDS, MScD

  • Research interests
    • Medically compromised patients, hospital dentistry, lasers and eating disorders
  • Current research projects
    • Preference of pediatric cardiologists for IE antibiotic prophylaxis before dental treatment
  • Promising areas for future research for students
    • Examining whether mothers of young children would be receptive to substituting non-nutritive sweeteners for sucrose (table sugar) in the child’s diet

 


 

William F. Vann, Jr., DMD, MS, PhD

William F. Vann, Jr., DMD, MS, PhD

William F. Vann, Jr., DMD, MS, PhD

  • Research interests
    • Community partnerships focused on access to oral health care, oral health literacy, childhood obesity and dental trauma and conscious sedation-related projects that involve secondary data collection
  • Current research projects
    • Examination of the Oral Health Literacy in Public Health Practice Study (the COHL Project), a collaboration with the Gillings School of Global Public Health and the Department of Psychology (NIH funded)
    • Carolina Dental Home Project; in Collaboration with the Gillings School of Global Public Health and State Oral Health Section (HRSA and NIH funded)
  • Most promising areas for student projects
    • Spin-off studies related to childhood obesity
    • Spin-off studies related to oral health literacy

 


 

J. Timothy Wright, DDS, MS

J. Timothy Wright, DDS, MS

J. Timothy Wright, DDS, MS

  • Research interests
    • Understanding molecular mechanisms involved in tooth and craniofacial formation and the use of this information in advancing our diagnostic and clinical treatments. Investigating the molecular controls involved in initiating, defining and maintaining odontogenic tumors in humans. Identifying caries objective caries risk assessment tools including plaque metabolomics.
  • Current research projects in progress
    • Enamel mineral formation during murine odontogenesis. A variety of transgenic mice are used to determine the role of the different amelogenin proteins in enamel formation.
    • Phenotype and gene expression in odontogenic tumors. Laser capture is used to localize specific cells from human odontogenic tumors and their gene expression is evaluated using 40,000 human gene microarrays (NIH funded)
    • The genotype and phenotype of amelogenesis imperfecta. Humans with these enamel hereditary conditions are studied to identify the causative genes and better understand the resulting dental manifestations
    • Psychological evaluation and Impact of individuals affected by hereditary dental conditions
    • The genotype and phenotype of dentinogenesis imperfecta: Different forms of DI are being objectively assessed clinically to better define the dental manifestations
    • Predicting dental caries risk in children. Children ages 4 to 10 years of age are evaluated for their caries risk and caries rate and correlating with traditional caries risk markers, plaque and salivary metabolomics analyses
  • Promising areas for future research for students
    • Characterization of mouse phenotypes resulting from manipulation of genes critical to normal tooth and craniofacial development
    • Developing new objective phenotyping measures for human teeth
    • Histological and biochemical evaluation of teeth from human hereditary conditions
    • The use of saliva and dental plaque metabolomics in dental caries prediction