PhD in Oral Biology

PhD programs at the College of Dentistry are specially adapted to the multidisciplinary nature of oral health research. We offer a PhD in oral biology, as well as combined programs with biomedical sciences, neuroscience and biomedical engineering.

The Ohio State University Oral Biology PhD Program is an interdisciplinary program at one of the most comprehensive health sciences center in America, with faculty from the Colleges of Dentistry, Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, as well as other units on campus.

It focuses on the structure, development and function of the tissues of the oral cavity; the interrelationships of these tissues with other organ systems; and the materials used to restore them. As a student, you will have the opportunity to participate in outstanding research in such areas as cancer research, the chemical senses, psychoneuroimmunology, microbial pathogenesis, oral infectious disease, biomaterials and molecular genetics.

Graduates of this program will be prepared for research and teaching careers in either a university or non-academic setting.

This program includes a five-year study leading to a PhD in oral biology. The major goal of the program is to prepare researchers and scholars for careers in either academia, such as academic biology or dentistry, or industry, particularly in oral health-related fields. The emphasis throughout the program is on the application of modern biological approaches to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of oral diseases, as well as the understanding of normal oral function.

The minimum academic degree for entrance into the program is a BS degree. A graduate student who holds a DDS or DMD degree and is pursuing a PhD in oral biology may qualify for a training grant to fully support their studies for at least five years, if they are also a US citizen and a permanent resident. 

Oral Biology PhD at a Glance


Degree and Training Programs

Understanding the value of both graduate and clinical training, faculty in the College of Dentistry developed the curriculum for the integrated DDS/PhD program. This is a seven-year program leading to a DDS/PhD degree for students who are motivated to pursue both research and clinical careers.

The program is currently supported by a T32 Training Grant, the Multidisciplinary Academic Research Training in Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Sciences (MARTDOCS) program, which provides both tuition and stipend support to exceptional trainees.

Approximately two students are admitted into the dual-degree program each year. Acceptance by both the DDS and Oral Biology PhD programs is required for admission into this program.

Students interested in this program should contact Dr. John Sheridan or Dr. Susan Mallery at


The Oral Biology program ranges from basic cell biology to system biology to biomaterials. All students are expected to be versed in the basics of cell function. Every student is required to successfully complete a core curriculum that includes the following courses:

  • Stats 5301, Intermediate Data Analysis I
  • Dent 8840, Current Issues in Biology
  • Pharm 7510, Professional and Ethical Issues in Biomedical Sciences
  • Dent 7029, Graduate Student Seminar Series

Although this course is not part of the core curriculum, students also typically earn a minimum of six credits in Dent 8901, Oral Biology Laboratory Rotations.

In conjunction with their adviser, students develop track-specific coursework appropriate to their research interests. These areas of study include:

  • Biomaterials
  • Cellular and Molecular Biology
  • Hard Tissue
  • Immunology and Inflammation
  • Microbiology/Microbiome
  • Neuroscience

Areas of Study


Current research in biomaterials encompasses physical, chemical and biological aspects of ceramic, metal, polymer and composite materials. Research techniques employed include analytical and descriptive spectrometry, analytical electron microscopy, cell culturing, human visual evaluation, mechanical testing, rheology, thermal analysis (including calorimetry and thermomechanical analysis), and x-ray diffractometry.

Immunology and Inflammation

The research interests of the faculty include signaling, gene expression, recruitment and function of inflammatory/immune cells, the regulation of wound healing, viral immunity, bacterial immunity, neuroendocrine modulation of inflammatory/immune responses, and cancer immunobiology. The investigators in this group have major interactions with other basic science departments on campus and have joint appointments in the Comprehensive Cancer Center, Medical Microbiology and Immunology, Biochemistry, Neuroscience and the Institute for Behavioral Medicine.


Faculty study microbial communities in the mouth and other mucosal surfaces, using techniques ranging from traditional microbial culturing to state of the art next generation sequencing. Research interests include the contribution of microbial communities to the development of diseases, like carries and periodontitis, as well as to basic physiological processes in the body such as immune system activity. Researchers in this group regularly interact with other basic scientists and clinicians through participation in the Center for Microbial Interface Biology, Department of Microbial Infection and Immunity, and Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at the Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University as well as the Center for Microbial Pathogenesis at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.


Hard Tissue

Investigations in the area of mineralized tissues include the study of function and regulation of bone and the biomechanical and clinical impact of dental and orthopedic implants. Researchers are currently studying bone metabolism and interactions with materials at the molecular, cellular and tissue levels.

Cellular and Molecular Biology

A number of program faculty are studying basic molecular or cellular processes or applying cell and molecular techniques to understand a diverse set of biological problems. Among the topics currently being investigated are: the genetics of craniofacial abnormalities, mechanisms of oral infectious diseases, extracellular matrix and hard tissue biogenesis, hormonal regulation, signal transduction, and cancer cell biology.


The College of Dentistry offers specialized studies in neurobiology related to oral function. Faculty research interests include oral sensory function related to taste and pain, oral motor function with respect to development, central pattern generation and unique craniofacial muscle phenotypes, and neuroimmunology.

Ready to Apply?

In the Ohio State graduate school application under Graduate Study Plan, list Graduate Programs as Oral Biology.

Contact Us

Still have questions? Visit the Oral Biology FAQ page or contact us.  

Graduate Studies Committee:  

Admissions contact:

Jessica Almikhi, MEd
Program Coordinator
Office of Graduate Studies
The Ohio State University College of Dentistry
305 W. 12th Ave.
Columbus, OH 43210
Fax: 614-688-5470