Singapore, 4 November 2019 – National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS) and SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre today launched the National Dental Research Institute Singapore (NDRIS) to drive oral health research in Asia. The institute has three programmes – Singapore Oro-facial Initiative (SOFI), Singapore Oral Microbiomics Initiative (SOMI) and Singapore Oral Population Health Initiative (SOPI) – which will meet oral health priorities in Singapore and worldwide by tapping on NDCS's clinical and research capabilities and partnerships with other academic and research institutions.
Research programme reflects oral health priorities
NDRIS is an embodiment of NDCS's research programme that has been conducted since the 1990s and formalised in 2014 under the auspices of the SingHealth Duke-NUS Oral Health Academic Clinical Programme (ACP). Over the past five years, the ACP has signed three memorandums of understanding and five research collaboration agreements worth over S$5 million with various institutions.
SOFI will develop oral medical devices and technologies and drive orofacial research and innovation with academic institutions and industry players. It is working on new bioactive materials that can grow tissues such as bone and influence immune system response, as well as creating new controlled-release treatments for oral conditions. One of the projects under this initiative is a microneedle patch to administer anaesthetic for dental patients. Jointly developed by clinician-scientists from NDCS and researchers from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), this method of pain management delivers anaesthesia without the use of long needles, which can cause dental anxiety and phobia.
SOMI studies microorganisms within the oral cavity – the oral microbiome – and their impact on oral health and general health, with the aim of developing personalised medicines. Its research projects include a study of the link between the oral microbiome and systemic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and pregnancy complications. SOMI aims to develop new treatments to modulate dysfunctions in the microbiome through personalised medicine. Please see Annex A for more information on the projects under SOFI and SOMI.
SOPI aims to improve oral and general health of the population through research, education and policy recommendations. Its multidisciplinary team of scientists, clinicians, economists and social scientists applies scientific approaches in behavioural, clinical and population-based studies, and health services, educational intervention and policy research. SOPI will implement an oral health surveillance system to provide prompt and useful oral health information for policymakers, health providers and researchers. The system will identify healthcare needs, and provide measurement and understanding of the changes expected in the population's oral health status.
NDRIS will build a global network of academic and research allies to enhance understanding of global oral health priorities, and develop relevant solutions and treatments to pressing issues in oral health. As longstanding collaborators, NTU and Karolinska Institutet in Sweden are among its first partners.
Oral health a pressing concern in Singapore and worldwide
Oral disease is the most common chronic disease globally. According to the Global Burden of Disease studies 2015 - 2017 of 195 countries from 1990 to 20171-5, oral conditions affected approximately 3.5 billion people and accounted for 16.9 – 19 million disability-adjusted life years. Untreated caries is the most prevalent health condition worldwide, affecting 2.3 – 2.5 billion people. In terms of economic burden, oral disease ranks fourth among all diseases. Increasingly, oral diseases have also been associated with other major non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, and they share common risk factors such as obesity, smoking, diet and physical inactivity. Recognising this, the World Health Organization Global Health Programme recommends that oral disease prevention and promotion of oral health be integrated with chronic disease prevention and general health promotion6.
In Singapore, a recent study revealed that 31 per cent of residents above 60 years of age have no teeth at all7. This proportion is considerably higher compared to the 17 to 20 per cent reported in other developed countries. The higher prevalence of chronic diseases – including oral diseases – due to the ageing population places increasing demands on Singapore's healthcare system.
"The long-term sustainability of our healthcare system is essential if we are to continue delivering care that meets the changing needs of the population. Research not only provides rich insights into population oral health trends; it will enable us to develop new and effective treatments for common oral health conditions, increase efficiency through the adoption of technology, and introduce new care models to improve health. We are excited to launch the National Dental Research Institute Singapore as a platform to bring together the best minds for the betterment of oral health locally and globally," said Clinical Associate Professor Poon Choy Yoke, Director, National Dental Centre Singapore.
 Kassebaum NJ, Smith AGC, Bernabé E, Fleming TD, Reynolds AE, Vos T, et al. Global, Regional, and National Prevalence,
Incidence, and Disability-Adjusted Life Years for Oral Conditions for 195 Countries, 1990–2015: A Systematic Analysis for the
Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors. Journal of Dental Research. 2017;96(4):380-87
2 GBD 2016 Disease and Injury Incidence and Prevalence Collaborators. Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 328 diseases and injuries for 195 countries, 1990-2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. Lancet. 2017 Sep 16;390(10100):1211-1259.
3 GBD 2016 DALYs and HALE Collaborators. Global, regional, and national disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) for 333 diseases and injuries and healthy life expectancy (HALE) for 195 countries and territories, 1990-2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. Lancet. 2017 Sep 16;390(10100):1260-1344.
4 GBD 2017 Disease and Injury Incidence and Prevalence Collaborators. Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 354 diseases and injuries for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. Lancet. 2018 Nov 10;392(10159)
5 GBD 2017 DALYs and HALE Collaborators. Global, regional, and national disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) for 359 diseases and injuries and healthy life expectancy (HALE) for 195 countries and territories, 1990-2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. Lancet. 2018 Nov 10;392(10159):1859-1922.
6 Sheiham A. Oral health, general health and quality of life. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 2005;83(9):644.
7 Chiu C, Malhotra R, Tan S, Lim J, Chan A, Teoh K, et al. Dental health status of community-dwelling older Singaporeans
findings from a nationally representative survey. Gerodontology. 2017;34(1):57-67.