Oral and Craniofacial Sciences Research

The Department of Oral and Craniofacial Sciences emphasizes multi-disciplinary approach to research and graduate education. We employ a dedicated staff and maintain state-of-the-art equipment to support our world-renowned faculty’s high level of research grant funding. In addition to research, our faculty are committed to supporting and developing graduate and post-graduate students in their educational and research efforts.

The Department of Oral and Craniofacial Sciences has three main focus areas for research: biomaterials/bioengineering, mineralized tissue biology and translational and clinical research. Faculty across these areas regularly collaborate in innovative ways to make the best use of the talents of individuals in the department.

Biomaterials and Bioengineering of Biological Tissues

The Biomaterials Interdisciplinary program includes collaborations within the department, across the UMKC campus and throughout the region. Research from this program has produced an oxirane/polyol dental composite system which is available to the dental profession, FiltekLS, a low shrink posterior restorative manufactured by 3M ESPE. The improvement of advanced dental biomaterials including composites and adhesives is greatly promoted when multi-disciplinary teams of scientists come together with their talent, laboratory resources, and equipment. Indeed, the purpose of this program is to provide the synergistic focus for the team of scientists and dentists to improve the durability of dental restorations and to understand more fully the underlining scientific principals governing the clinical behavior of these biomaterials.

A major thrust of the Biomaterials program is its newly added Bioengineering component which includes the multi-scale (including micro- and nano-) properties and structure characterization of natural biomaterials such as bone, dentin, and enamel. Another area of focus is using advanced spectroscopic and imaging techniques and machine learning/deep learning to the detection of oral cancers. A third area is in the design of new scaffolds for tissue engineering to treat bone and cartilage deficits. Several advanced technologies support this research including Raman, FTIR, AFM/nanoindentation, 3D printing and an array of instrumentation for the biomechanical analysis of materials.

Mineralized Tissue Biology

This Program includes two components that collaborate highly and integrate their research with the Biomaterials and Bioengineering Components of the Department of Oral and Craniofacial Sciences. One component of this program involves basic studies of bone cell biology (osteoblasts, osteoclasts and osteocytes).  Their research involves understanding how bone responds to mechanical load, bone-muscle crosstalk and how the various bone cells act to orchestrate bone formation and resorption.  The second closely related component involves studies of craniofacial development with a focus on the genetics and pathology of craniofacial anomalies during embryonic development, mechanisms underlying jaw and tooth development.

This program is composed of bone biologists with specific and unique skills that create a comprehensive team for the study of mineralized tissues. The technology available for the study of mineralized tissues include micro-computed tomography (for bone form/dysmorphology and density), genomics and proteomics (for the assessment and characterization of changes in response to genetic mutation, exercise or treatment), genetically modified mice (transgenic and knock-out), and bone analysis for properties such as density, hardness, strength, and histomorphometry (for analysis of both bone and bone cells). 3D microscopy, including dynamic imaging, and applications of mechanical strain, both in vitro and in vivo, are among other established technologies.

The goal of the program is to approach important issues in bone, tooth and craniofacial development, physiology, and disease from basic experiments to clinical research. In vitro approaches are first necessary to properly design transgenic approaches which are essential before clinical trials. All three components — basic, translational and clinical research — are essential for translating findings into prevention of disease and treatment in the clinic. 

Translational and Clinical Research

Translational and Clinical research is one of three main research areas within the UMKC School of Dentistry.  The on-going clinical research efforts include those involved with temporomandibular disorders, craniofacial development and associated early childhood birth defects and acquired diseases, oral cancer diagnosis, scaffolds for improved tissue engineering and restorative materials. Our goal is to provide an environment for innovative studies and collaborative efforts that push the boundaries of research and contribute to advancements in patient care.

Our commitment to excellence and our focus on interdisciplinary collaboration make UMKC School of Dentistry a vibrant hub for groundbreaking research and the advancement of dental healthcare.

For more details relating to specific research in the Department of Oral and Craniofacial Sciences please click on the links below to our department faculty.

Our Faculty


Dr. Melanie Simmer-Beck, Interim-Chair
Dr. Erin Bumann
Dr. Timothy Cox
Dr. Sarah Dallas
Dr. Stefan Lohfeld
Dr. Mary Walker
Dr. Rong (Rose) Wang
Dr. Yong Wang