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This file is provided for reference purposes only. It was current when it was produced, but it is no longer maintained and may now be out of date. Persons with disabilities having difficulty accessing information may contact us for assistance. For reliable, current information on this and other health topics, we recommend consulting the NIH Clinical Center at

A Smile for a Lifetime

Presented by:

Harold C. Slavkin, D.D.S.

Director, National Institute of Dental Research

National Institutes of Health

The human face provides a veneer for the brain, a sensory apparatus to perceive our environment, a mirror of our feelings, and a portal for breathing, eating and speech. As we near the new millennium, recall that human life expectancy in 1900 was 45 years of age, and being toothless was a normal expectation.

Today, with life expectancy nearing almost 80 years of age, can we really anticipate going an entire lifetime with smiles where we retain all of our teeth, free of chronic pain and discomfort? In the event that we do require tooth replacement, such as in the case of children born with inherited ectodermal dysplasia, there is presently remarkable technology in the form of dental implants. Today, individual or complete tooth loss can be addressed using dental implants throughout the lifespan. Tomorrow, through continued investment in science and technology, we seek innovate bioengineering approaches to regenerate body parts--including teeth-in the form of a science that mimics biology, called biomimetics. With these and other advances, the mature adult of today can anticipate a future that retains a "smile for a lifetime" as never before in human history.

Since 1995, Dr. Slavkin has served as director for the National Institute of Dental Research (NIDR), and chief of the craniofacial development section of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Dr. Slavkin's primary research interests focus on the molecular processes associated with craniofacial, oral and dental patterns. He served from 1989 to 1995 as director of the University of Southern California (USC) Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology, and previously served from 1975 to 1985 as chairman and program director of the Graduate Program in Craniofacial Biology at USC.

Dr. Slavkin earned both his undergraduate degree and his D.D.S. from the University of Southern California. He also held an NIH postdoctoral fellowship in biochemistry at the University of Southern California

Before leaving the University of Southern California, Dr. Slavkin also previously served as laboratory chief at the Laboratory for Developmental Biology Gerontology Center, and chairman of the School of Dentistry's Department of Biochemistry and Nutrition.

Dr. Slavkin is a member of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences. He is also a past president of the American Association for Dental Research, member of the International Association for Dental Research and the American Cleft Palate Association. He is on the editorial board of the Craniofacial Developmental Biology & Genetics, International Journal of Developmental Biology, Differentiation, Current Opinion in Dentistry, and Oral Diseases.


For more information about the Clinical Center and its Medicine for the Public lecture series, contact CC Communications (, (301) 496-2563.

National Institutes of Health, Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center, Bethesda, Maryland 20892. 9/98

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This page last reviewed on 09/9/09

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