Penn Dental Medicine


Research Overview » Research Programs

Key Research Areas

Following is an overview of Penn Dental Medicine’s leading research programs.

Periodontal Disease
Investigators pursue novel therapeutic approaches to both treat and prevent this persistent disease.

  • Dr. George Hajishengallis investigates the use of the DEL-1 glycoprotein to prevent and treat the onset of the disease through regulation of the inflammatory immune response.
  • Dr. Dana Graves explores the molecular mechanisms by which inflammation induces periodontal disease, interferes with bone formation and impairs fracture healing.
  • Dr. Denis Kinane and Dr. Joseph Fiorellini employ host-derived diagnostic markers related to soft tissue destruction and bone degradation induced by periodontitis.
  • Dr. Bruce Shenker investigates the use of a bacterial immunotoxin as a pharmacologic agent for treating cancer and inflammatory disorders like peridontitis.
  • Dr. Joseph Fiorellini uses molecular approaches for regrowing damaged tissue via regenerative periodontal therapy.

Oral Mucosal Diseases & Bone Disorders
Investigators specialize in treating oral mucosal and bone and tissue disorders, especially those induced and/or exacerbated by conventional cancer therapies.

  • Dr. Anh Le investigates the use of human gingival-derived mesenchymal stem cells (GMSC) to treat oral mucositis induced by chemotherapy. She is also investigating the use of these stem cells to treat bisphosphonate-related osteonecrosis of the jaw (BRONJ).
  • Dr. Sunday Akintoye & Dr. Elliot Hersh examine how bisphosphonate drugs negatively affect bone density and impair oral health.
  • Dr. Thomas Sollecito develops novel oral drug delivery systems and mucoadhesive products for the treatment of mucosal disorders. He is also creating new treatment modalities for precancerous oral lesions, including leukoplakia and lichen planus/lichenoid mucositis.
  • Dr. Eric Stoopler treats plasma cell disorders, multiple myeloma and oral mucosal toxicities caused by melphalan, a common chemotherapeutic agent.

Orofacial Pain
Penn Dental Medicine is a pioneer in the field of complex dental pain disorders, ranging from TMD/TMJ, orofacial neuralgias and neuropathic pain. In 2012, Penn was designated by the NIH as a National Center of Excellence in Pain Education (in collaboration with Penn’s Schools of Medicine, Dental Medicine & Nursing).

  • Dr. Elliot Hersh is an expert in dental pain models and the pharmacologic management of oral pain. He has directed pivotal studies which led to FDA approval of myriad analgesic and anesthetic agents. He also develops guidelines for postsurgical pain, efficacy and tolerability and dose-ranging studies.

Advanced Dental Materials & Devices
The School regularly conducts industry-funded laboratory and clinical trials on advanced dental adhesives, cements, restorative and impression materials, biomaterials, advanced coatings, surface treatments and ceramics and employs advanced CAD/CAM technology.

  • Dr. Markus Blatz investigates the clinical performance, efficacy and bond strength of new adhesives systems; the dimensional behavior and fracture tolerance of novel materials; and the biological behavior (cytotoxicity, bacterial adhesion) of restorative materials.
  • Dr. Francis Mante explores the use of biomaterials to restore and replace teeth, elastromeric monomers to strengthen dental composites, and novel materials with antimicrobial properties to prevent secondary caries and infection.
  • Dr. Fusun Ozer employs new adhesive materials to increase the longevity of resin fillings and the use of resin adhesives to promote the healing of pulp tissue under deep cavities.
  • Dr. Sunday Akintoye studies biomimetic, calcium-silicate cements that support the differentiation of orofacial mesenchymal stem cells. He also uses beta-catenin to regenerate teeth.
  • Dr. Syngcuk Kim investigates root end filling materials with osteogenic properties to regenerate periapical bone and biomimetic mineralization and biceramic materials for root repair.
  • Dr. Kenneth Kent employs drag-reducing, anti-fouling coatings on the exposed components of implant restorations to reduce surface microbial colonization and improve oral hygiene.
  • Dr. Joseph Fiorellini explores the osseointegration of oral devices and implants, incorporating growth factors to regenerate structure and small molecule signaling and 3-D scaffold development to promote regeneration.

Oral & Systemic Health
Penn Dental Medicine recognizes that oral health complications are often implicitly linked to systemic health.

  • Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat leads a multi-center, industry-funded trial to assess the effect of advanced daily oral hygiene in the first and second trimesters on gingivitis and birth outcomes.
  • Dr. Dana Graves explores the link between diabetes and complications that affect bone formation, fracture repair, periodontal disease and soft tissue healing.
  • Dr. Dana Graves & Dr. Joseph Fiorellini are testing an experimental, biodegradable polymeric pro-drug (NSAID) to reduce inflammation, eliminate bacteria and promote/accelerate bone formation in diabetic patients.
  • Dr. Denis Kinane investigates the linkages between oral health, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, including inflammation, immunity, microbial pathogenesis and genetics.


Dr. Dana Graves
Associate Dean for Translational Research

Research Programs

Penn Dental Research Facts & Figures

Total Reseach Funds Awarded FY14- $16.89M

Program & Faculty Features

Unraveling Biofilms

Dr. Michel Koo Employing Unique Approaches to Target Biofilms, Tooth Decay

Penn Dental Journal,

Spring 2014

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Research Spotlight

Highlights of 2013 High Impact Research Articles

Penn Dental Journal,

Spring 2014

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Green Vaccines

Delivering Drugs with Plants, Dr. Henry Daniell Aims to Save Lives

Penn Dental Journal,

Fall 2013

Read PDF »

The Robert Schattner Center
University of Pennsylvania
School of Dental Medicine
240 South 40th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6030