Research clusters logo


Our research is organized into four clusters, spanning the basic sciences, clinical sciences, social and behavioral sciences and public health. Working together across disciplines, our faculty and students are bringing the latest knowledge and advancements into our classrooms, clinics and offices in Minnesota and beyond.

Expand all

Behavioral, Public Health and Educational Research

Blue hexagon with outlines of three people encompassed inside it

School of Dentistry researchers aim to understand, and ultimately reduce, oral health disparities in both rural and urban areas of the state. Research questions range from how to reduce risk-related behaviors for early childhood cavities to how patients perceive the effects of dental intervention. We collaborate with regional outreach clinics, the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, HealthPartners of Minnesota, and the National Dental Practice-Based Research Network. We also created a Dental Therapy program to help in extending oral health care to underserved populations.

Biomaterials, Biomechanics and Technology

Gray hexagon with a dental tool illustrated in it

The School of Dentistry has a world-class reputation in the development and testing of dental materials, including restorations, adhesives, composite resins and devices. At the heart of this work is the Minnesota Dental Research Center for Biomaterials and Biomechanics (MDRCBB). Home to the world’s first artificial chewing machine, the MDRCBB is a leader in the simulation of oral challenges, the characterization of biomaterials, digital imaging technologies, and more. The MDRCBB has a long history of industrial collaborations with global partners and has tested some of the most trusted dental materials in use today. The center’s research portfolio has expanded in recent years with orthodontic bracket testing, food texture analysis and materials testing in the energy sector.

Oral Microbiology, Virology, Immunology and Cancer

Yellow hexagon with an illustrated virus particle

Oral infections, viruses, cavities, oral cancer and periodontal disease are major problems in dentistry today. To solve these problems, our researchers aim to better understand the bigger picture, including the oral microbiome, mucosal immunology, and viral structure and assembly. Through ongoing support from the NIH, we have unraveled mysteries associated with the infectious process of bacterial viruses, informing the development of new drugs and other treatments. Several of our clinical studies explore the role of periodontal disease in systemic conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and osteonecrosis of the jaw. Other studies seek to develop novel diagnostic tests for oral cancer and Sjögren’s syndrome. Centers within this research cluster include the Institute for Molecular Virology, the Biofilms, Apatite and Microbiomes Lab, and the Oral Health Clinical Research Center.

Systems Biology of the Orofacial Complex

Maroon hexagon with an illustrated microscope in it

Research within this cluster ranges from basic bone biology, to periodontal disease and dental implants, to orofacial pain related to TMJ and cancer. School of Dentistry researchers are studying the cellular processes behind bone loss, with the goal of improving outcomes of dental implants, oral surgery, endodontics, orthodontics, and more. Using cutting-edge tools and techniques, researchers in the Hard Tissue Research Laboratory are investigating implants, bone grafting materials and techniques, and bone augmentation. Our faculty have also been successful in explaining the triggers behind pain response, as well as testing the effectiveness of various pain modulators. 

Clinical and Translational Research

Tooth and sparkles inside a green hexagon

Every discovery our researchers make has the ultimate goal of enhancing the state of oral health care for Minnesota and beyond. Researchers in the Clinical and Translational Research Cluster test new methods and products with the intent of transferring new knowledge and technological advances into patient care. Together, we enhance the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of oral diseases for the patients we serve.