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Biomechanics and oral implantology

We work on discoveries that have real benefits for both the public, and the profession of dentistry in New Zealand, and around the world.

Programme Leader: Associate Professor Neil Waddell

Modern dentistry and its allied fields of oral health and dental technology depend on
 a flourishing biomechanical environment. The research disciplines of biomechanics and clinical dentistry, therefore, go hand in hand. The synergy between the two has fostered the development of a great number of exciting new treatment and preventative modalities.

Implantology and Biomechanics is one of the SJWRI’s acknowledged areas of research strength. Three groups, with international reputations for their interactive approaches to research, are exploring this area:

  • Implantology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomechanics

The eventual goal of the innovative application of biomechanical analyses to problems in dentistry and forensic biology is the development of a new understanding of underlying structure and function that will lead to clinical translation of our results.

Implantology and associated superstructures

Research teams led by Associate Professor Warwick Duncan have expertise in conducting clinical (human) and preclinical (animal) trials and laboratory-based research relating to oral implants.

The aim of this research is to develop evidence-based treatments that reduce the interval between oral implant placement and loading. This is achieved by optimising the implant design and the surgical and prosthodontic protocols and materials. Research is being conducted into different oral implant systems, materials, surfaces, superstructures, and surgical and restorative protocols, as well as supporting biological and regenerative products.

Graduate student research includes immediate placement and/or loading of single implants and implant-supported over-dentures, fit of zirconia prostheses, implant analysis using micro-CT, and analysis of different implant systems and bone placement grafts in sheep femur and maxillary sinus models.


The biomaterials group conduct experimental and observational research in cranio-facial biomechanics, with a special focus on prosthodontics (failure mechanisms and adhesion of dental restorations and materials). Members of the group also contribute to other areas of research such as forensic science (in vitro modelling of blunt force trauma, forensic odontology, wounding and ballistic blood splatter analysis) and intra-oral pressure dynamics.

The group collaborate with researchers from other departments and institutions:

  • Department of Geology, University of Otago
  • Forensic Science Department, Environmental Science and Research
  • Department of Anatomy and Structural Biology, University of Otago
  • Bioengineering Institute, Auckland University
  • Institute of Food Nutrition and Human Health, Massey University
  • School of Dentistry/Oral Health Centre of Western Australia, The University of Western Australia
  • national Centre for Advanced Tribology at Southampton (nCATS), Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton

Biomechanics of hard and soft tissue, and forensic biology

A unified approach to research in the area of hard and soft tissue biomechanics has created a revolution in our understanding of the basis and effectiveness of a range of therapies.

This new approach has attracted a group of innovative researchers from:

  • Dentistry
  • Pharmacy
  • Geology
  • Medicine
  • Zoology

Their achievements in research into artificial saliva, dental hard tissue anatomy, intra-oral pressures during swallowing, orthodontics, paediatric dentistry and also forensic biology have gained international recognition. Collaborative research that allows for the application of a wide range of expertise and specialized equipment plays a key role in this work.

The work spans a wide range of ideas from the development of plausible theories of human craniofacial development and growth through to the engineering of complex treatment strategies of clinical problems such as malocclusion, TMJ dysfunction, dental erosion and dysphagia. The research areas are: real-time measurement of oral pH, intra-oral tongue pressure changes, dental ageing, enamel structure and novel food products. This research group actively collaborates with other members of NZ Biomouth.

The research areas in forensic biology include: non-accidental injury and child abuse, marine decomposition and forensic odontology. This group has a wide New Zealand and international collaborative network.

Until recently, the theme of oral biomechanics was led by the late Professor Jules Kieser (1950-2014). Professor Kieser's website has been retained as a tribute to his work and contribution.