Research projects

Every year, the ASO Foundation for Research and Education provides funding to each student enrolled in a 3-year accredited postgraduate orthodontic course in Australia. In addition, the Foundation funds special research projects - for information about applying for a special research grant, click HERE.

Special research project

Below is a summary of a special research project that receiving funding from ASOFRE.

Pulp blood flow and sensibility in patients with a history of dental trauma undergoing maxillary expansion: a prospective study
Raymond Lam, University of Western Australia

The effect of orthodontic treatment on pulp status is a current area of focus at the University of Western Australia. This has culminated in publications reporting the effect of surgical expansion and mandibular surgery on pulp health. Building on our previous work, this project assesses pulp blood flow and sensibility in patients with a history of dental trauma undergoing maxillary expansion.

Dental trauma is a unique injury due to its unpredictable nature, and no individual is ever at zero risk of dental trauma from their everyday activities. Of particular importance to the orthodontist is that peak periods of trauma risk coincide with the time that maxillary expansion is typically indicated. Therefore, it is not uncommon for patients presenting for orthodontic treatment to exhibit teeth that are compromised. Despite this, to date, all pulp blood flow studies on maxillary expansion have focused exclusively on healthy teeth with no history of trauma or
restorative therapy.

As forces employed in rapid maxillary expansion are significant, it is of clinical benefit to appreciate how teeth with a history of compromise fare in these situations. As such, the primary aim of this project is to assess pulp blood flow in teeth with a history of trauma undergoing maxillary expansion. Specialised equipment in the form of a Laser Doppler Flowmeter was required to enable measurement of pulp blood flow. As a result, this project would not have been possible without funding provided by ASOFRE. Purchase of the Laser Doppler Flowmeter has not only made completion of this project possible, but it has provided opportunities for further research in this area. 

Student research projects

In 2019, ASOFRE contributed funding to all 47 student research projects across five Australian universities. Below are three project summaries.

1. The effect of low-level laser therapy on the rate of tooth movement with a clinically feasible protocol
University of Sydney, Dipika Mistry

In a growing market of devices to accelerate tooth movement, research in this area is invaluable to ensure both orthodontists and patients are informed of the potential risks and benefits of various devices. This research investigated how the application of Low Level Laser Therapy every 4 weeks affects the amount of extraction space closure in canine distalisation, anchorage loss and canine rotation. The study followed strict criteria for split-mouth Randomised Clinical Trials (RCTs) in design, analysis and reporting with the treating clinician, patients and statistician being blinded on the site of laser applications. Cutting-edge technology was used for dental scanning and performing measurements with computer software on the reconstructed models. It was found that this intervention, when applied on clinically feasible 4-week time intervals, did not induce significant effects in all parameters. The study has been accepted for publication in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics.

2. Microcrack Formation as a Result of Inserting Orthodontic Miniscrew Implants and Micro-osteoperforation Screws 
University of Adelaide, Celine Chan Sze-ying

Micro-osteoperforation (MOP) is a procedure in which small holes are created in the bone around the teeth in an attempt to accelerate tooth movement. There have been no prior histological studies investigating the difference in created microdamage when the method of insertion of MOP screws is varied.  Orthodontic mini-screw implants (OMIs) are a form of skeletal anchorage and there are few studies that have investigated the impact of the method of insertion on OMI success. This study used 40 pig tibia bone specimens to quantify the amount of bony microdamage generated by a MOP-specific screw tip, and to determine if there is a difference in bony microdamage produced when using a hand driver compared to a motor handpiece for MOP and OMI insertion. Although some minor differences in microdamage related the two methods of insertion of both OMIs and MOP screws were observed, they were considered unlikely to be clinically significant. 

3. Gingival thickness as determined by clinicians using visual and periodontal probe transparency methods: a comparison to ultrasonography
Jessica Kong, University of Western Australia

Being able to readily and reliably determine a patient’s gingival thickness and gingival phenotype (biotype) is an important part of orthodontic practice. It has been demonstrated that thin and thick phenotypes respond differently to orthodontic, periodontal, surgical and restorative treatments. Individuals particularly with thin phenotypes, may respond poorly and be prone to the development of gingival recession following such treatments. Yet, there continues to be no favoured method for determining gingival phenotype reliably. The objective of this research project was to critically evaluate visual and periodontal probing against ultrasonography as methods of assessing gingival phenotype. The study found visual assessment and periodontal probing methods lacked the ability to consistently identify gingival phenotype correctly. Furthermore, clinicians were inconsistent with their gingival phenotype determinations. Ultrasonography was successful in measuring gingival thickness and deemed potentially useful in other diagnostic applications in dentistry.