Bristol Dental School has a long-established interdisciplinary research culture with tight links between clinical research (dentistry and orthopaedics) and basic scientific research.
As a result, our research laboratories are located close to clinical facilities such as the Clinical Trials Unit, patient clinics and primary care units.
We receive funding from a range of organisations including the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), The European Union, The Wellcome Trust, DSTL and various UKRI research councils, among others.
The school hosts two overarching research groups:
- Lifecourse Epidemiology and Population Oral Health
- Microbiology and Materials
Each of these overarching groups has a research convenor– Professor Andy Ness and Dr Angela Nobbs respectively.
The school has two affiliated groups– the Cleft Collective and the Clinical Trials Unit. These are led by Dr Yvonne Wren and Professor Nicola West respectively.
Clinical academics are affiliated to one (or more) of these groups but are also part of a support network for clinical academics co-ordinated by Professor Steve Thomas.
Lifecourse Epidemiology and Population Oral Health
Lifecourse Epidemiology and Population Oral Health (LEPOH)
LEPOH is led by Professor Andy Ness and comprises academics with expertise in epidemiology, statistics, social science and nutrition, as well as clinicians and research nurses. The main research areas are head and neck cancer (including Head and Neck 5000, a DNA backed clinical cohort of 5,500 people with head and neck cancer), and nutrition (via the NIHR Bristol Biomedical Research Centre Nutrition Theme). LEPOH group members also lead various aspects of undergraduate and postgraduate teaching within the School and across the Faculty of Health Sciences.
Microbiology and Materials
The Biomaterials Engineering group (bioMEG) works in the area of materials processing and surface engineering for biomedical and engineering applications. Our current research activities focus on two areas: (1) cell-instructive surfaces and materials. We explore physical cues i.e. surface topography and mechanical stiffness to modulate cells and bacteria to develop smart implants and tissue engineering scaffolds; (2) biomimetic and bio-inspired materials. We explore top-down approaches to develop biomimetic ceramic composites with controlled hierarchical structures for dental, orthopaedic and other engineering applications.
The Oral Microbiology research group conducts studies into the survival strategies of microorganisms, their colonisation and virulence factors, and the interactions that occur between microbes or between microbe and host, especially in the development of microbial communities (biofilms). These studies impinge on many aspects of both oral and systemic health and disease, including the growing issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Areas of particular focus include colonisation and pathogenesis mechanisms of Streptococcus bacteria and of fungus Candida albicans. We also work closely with the Biomaterials group in the design of next-generation, anti-infective materials.
The Oral Nanoscience group is interested in multi-functional biomaterials. In particular, we are interested in antimicrobial materials which resist microbial colonisation and biofilm formation. Examples of this include dental filling materials and sealants and polymers for catheters and dental ligatures, as well as topical agents for periodontal disease and foot disease in farm animals. We are also active in the field of nanoreinforced biomaterials, particularly for dental applications.
The School has two affiliated research groups
The Cleft Collective
The Cleft Collective study is one of the largest studies of cleft in the world and was set up to answer 3 key questions: What are the causes of cleft lip and palate? What are the best treatments? How might a cleft affect a child as they develop? Currently, we have recruited over 9000 participants from over 3000 families from all across the UK via their local NHS cleft teams. Participants recruited into the study donate biological samples and complete questionnaires at various time points throughout the child’s life. For some children, we also collect audio recordings of the babbling noises they make whilst learning to speak. We also link to our participants medical and educational records with their consent. We involve those affected by cleft in the development of our research in collaboration with CLAPA (Cleft Lip and Palate Association). We collaborate with academics, scientists, and healthcare professionals from across the UK and around the world.
The Clinical Trials Unit
The Clinical Trials Unit is long established in the international periodontal arena of research with regards to dentine hypersensitivity and toothwear, prevention of plaque and gingivitis and treatment of diseases of the periodontium. In recent years our research interests have expanded to include studies that investigate the links between Alzheimer’s disease and periodontal disease, test the ability of autologous technologies to improve healing and bone regeneration and aim to identify the relative influence of risk factors on oral disease prevalence in the population. Study methodologies include randomised clinical trials, non-interventional clinical studies for epidemiological data and laboratory based techniques.
REF 2021 success
Bristol Dental School are incredibly proud to have achieved these outstanding results in the Research Excellence Framework 2021, highlighting the quality of our research.
71% of Bristol’s submission to the REF 2021 Unit of Assessment in Public Health, Health Services and Primary Care is classed as ‘world-leading’. 97% is classed as either ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’.
94% of Bristol’s submission to the REF 2021 Unit of Assessment in Clinical Medicine is classed as either ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent'.
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Did you know?
We are the only dental school in the UK to have an theme within a Biomedical Research Centre as a core part of its research activity.