Research project Research is focused on root canal infection and pathogenesis of diseases in the dental pulp and periapical tissue.
Endodontic microbiology was established using advanced anaerobic techniques for clinical recovery and culture of root canal samples. Molecular methods, based on detection of microbial DNA, have increasingly been utilised for analysis of the bacterial composition in infected teeth. Molecular methods are widely considered to have greater specificity, and to be easier and faster to apply in identification of microbiota in clinical samples. Nevertheless, there are shortcomings in applying molecular techniques of identification to root canal samples. The high binding affinity between DNA and tooth structure presents a special challenge for work in this area.
We have confirmed the high binding affinity of DNA to the primary constituent of human tooth, hydroxyapatite, and shown that this property can stabilise & preserve DNA from dead microbes against environmental and microbial degradation. Bacterial DNA is preserved and detectable long after cell death. These findings have important implications for the use of molecular techniques in studying the root canal microbiota. Persistence of DNA from long-dead microbes and contamination of samples from extraneous microbial DNA are two examples of how this unique property may confound sampling results because species inadvertently included may actually be unrelated and irrelevant to the current infection.
Research at the department, in collaboration with Dr David Figdor, Monash University, Department of Microbiology, Australia has focused on identifying, testing and eventually improving the application of molecular methods to endodontics.