NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

NIDCR Symposium Celebrates 75 Years of Research

Three attendees pose together in the auditorium.
Enjoying NIDCR’s anniversary symposium are (from l) Rear Admiral Michael Windsor Johnson, Dr. Natalia Chalmers and Dr. Jennifer Webster-Cyriaque.

During World War II, rampant tooth decay in the U.S. disqualified nearly 20% of eligible recruits from military service. To address this issue, President Harry Truman signed legislation on June 24, 1948 to create what would eventually become the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). 

Over the past 75 years, NIDCR has propelled cutting-edge science on the oral microbiome, pain, health disparities, oral cancer, tissue regeneration, craniofacial development and genetics, and the biology of saliva and the salivary gland.

NIDCR officially launched a year-long celebration of its 75th anniversary on June 27 with a symposium titled “NIDCR at 75: Celebrating the Past, Charting the Future.” The event featured talks by Acting NIH Director Dr. Lawrence Tabak and former NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins as well as NIDCR Director Dr. Rena D’Souza. University of Michigan Provost Dr. Laurie McCauley presented the keynote address. 

Dr. Laurie McCauley speaks at podium.
University of Michigan’s Dr. Laurie McCauley presents the keynote.

The symposium covered the institute’s vital contributions to the biomedical research enterprise, highlighted the state of the science and featured federal partners and professional society representatives describing the critical role of collaboration for achieving oral health for all. 

NIDCR Deputy Director Dr. Jennifer Webster-Cyriaque moderated a session that featured the National Chief Dental Officer, Rear Admiral Michael Windsor Johnson, and representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Food and Drug Administration. 

NIDCR first announced its anniversary celebration in March with a symposium at an annual conference for the American Association for Dental, Oral and Craniofacial Research in Portland, Ore. 

Group shot of meeting participants in front of NIDCR 75 Years slide in Lipsett Amphitheater
NIDCR officially launched a year-long celebration of its 75th anniversary on June 27 with a symposium. (l. to r.) Tim Leeth of the American Dental Education Association; Chalmers; McCauley; Webster-Cyriaque; Dr. Francis Collins; Casey Hannan; Dr. Karen West, and Dr. George Shepley. (front row) NIDCR Director Dr. Rena D’Souza with Robert Burns of the American Dental Association

Photo:  NIDCR

The event, “Scientific Strides of the NIDCR: 75 Years and Beyond,” featured remarks from three former NIDCR directors—Dr. Hal Slavkin, Tabak and Dr. Martha Somerman—along with current director D’Souza. 

A panel discussion followed, featuring NIDCR intramural researchers Dr. Marian Young, Dr. Pamela Robey, Dr. John Chiorini, Dr. Ashok Kulkarni, Dr. Niki Moutsoupoulos and Dr. Janice Lee, who described advances in the intramural program over the past decades. 

Concluding the conference symposium, D’Souza described a vision for NIDCR’s next 25 years that included making salivary testing and diagnosis a regular part of medicine and oral health, contributing to a 50% reduction in the prevalence of dental caries, identifying the connections between periodontal disease and systemic conditions, and improving our ability to prevent head and neck cancers.

A recording of the Charting the Future symposium is archived online at For information about all of the activities during NIDCR’s year-long anniversary celebration, visit

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The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

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