Compiled by Eugene Russo
In the 1940s, the federal government created the National Institute for Dental Research in response to a pressing need: young men with an insufficient number of opposing teeth. World War II draftees were failing their physical examinations due to inadequate choppers, which was a combat concern because young soldiers needed strong opposing teeth when, say, pulling grenade pins. The institute, renamed the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) in 1998, now conducts much more research with relevance to systemic conditions.
"Somewhere along the way, people disembodied the craniofa-cial complex from the rest of the body, thinking that somehow it's separate," says NIDCR director Lawrence Tabak. But Tabak lobbies for more respect for the mouth. A major interface with the external world, the mouth harbors oral infections that may negatively affect one's overall health, and better analysis may lead to diagnostic predictors (