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Contact Details

+64 21 279 7116
Emeritus Professor of Dental Epidemiology and Public Health
Department of Oral Sciences
BSc BDS MComDent(Otago) MA(Leeds) PhD(Adel)
Research summary
Dental epidemiology, dental public health, and health services research
Coordinator of the MComDent programme and DENT 363
  • International Association for Dental Research (including the Geriatric Oral Research Group, the Behavioural, Epidemiology and Health Services Research Group, and the Global Oral Health Inequalities Research Network)
  • New Zealand Association of Gerontology
  • New Zealand Society for Hospital and Community Dentistry
  • Health Coalition Aotearoa
  • New Zealand Dental Association
  • Royal Society of New Zealand
  • Fellow of the International College of Dentists
  • Fellow of the Academy of Dentistry International
Dry mouth, self-reported oral health and quality of life


Professor Thomson has made contributions in a number of domains, and he has published 420 papers to date in the peer-reviewed international scientific literature. Perhaps his contribution to new knowledge is most evident through his involvement in the Dunedin Multidsicplinary Health and Development Study. That work has generated unprecedented information on the natural history of oral conditions from childhood to midlife.

Professor Thomson has also made seminal contributions to measuring dry mouth, and to understanding the condition’s occurrence, natural history and antecedents. He solved the polypharmacy problem which had impeded investigations of medication-induced dry mouth.

Professor Thomson has made crucially important contributions to the development, testing and field use of instruments for measuring oral-health-related quality of life (OHRQoL) in children, as well as to understanding of the determinants of OHRQoL in adults. He has made important contributions to knowledge of the oral health of older people. Thomson’s national oral health survey work in Australasia has been internationally influential; he has added considerable value by conducting secondary analyses and publishing papers on a wide range of topics, including a number of cross-national comparisons (with colleagues in the USA, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Canada and China) which have enhanced understanding of adult oral health.

Professor Thomson was included as one of the top contributors to dental public health research in the last half century in a 2016 bibliometric analysis (doi: 10.1111/cdoe.12249), and his work features in a 2021 overview of the 100 most cited papers in dental public health journals (doi/epdf/10.1111/cdoe.12572). Thomson has provided many years of service as an Editor-in-Chief for international scientific journals.

Additional details

Professor Thomson has the rare honour of two separate Distinguished Scientist Awards from the IADR (International Association for Dental Research): the 2010 H. Trendley Dean Memorial Award, for meritorious research in epidemiology and public health, and the 2014 Geriatric Oral Research Award. He is the first NZ-based scientist to have been honoured by the IADR.

In 2017, Thomson was in the team awarded the 2016 Prime Minister’s Science Prize, which went to 10 Principal Investigators in the Dunedin Study. In 2019, he was awarded the Chaffer Medal (for distinguished performance in health research) by the Otago Medical Postgraduate Society. In 2010, he received the Sir John Walsh Research Award (for research over an extended period by a member of the University of Otago Faculty of Dentistry). In 2009, he was awarded the Alan Docking Award for distinguished research in dentistry by the Australia-NZ Division of the IADR. In 2015, he was made a Fellow of the NZ Dental Association.

He is Editor-in-Chief of Gerodontology (published by John Wiley and Sons). He was Editor-in-Chief (2015-2021) of Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology. He is also Associate Editor for the European Journal of Oral Sciences. He was Editor of the New Zealand Dental Journal from 2007 to 2014. He has served terms on various Editorial Advisory Boards. He was President of the IADR’s Geriatric Oral Research Group in 2012-13.


Thomson, W. M., Poulton, R., Broadbent, J. M., Moffitt, T. E., Caspi, A., Beck, J. D., Welch, D., & Hancox, R. J. (2008). Cannabis smoking and periodontal disease among young adults. JAMA, 299(5), 525-531. Journal - Research Article

Thomson, W. M., Williams, S. M., Broadbent, J. M., Poulton, R., & Locker, D. (2010). Long-term dental visiting patterns and adult oral health. Journal of Dental Research, 89(3), 307-311. doi: 10.1177/0022034509356779 Journal - Research Article

Broadbent, J. M., Thomson, W. M., & Poulton, R. (2008). Trajectory patterns of dental caries experience in the permanent dentition to the fourth decade of life. Journal of Dental Research, 87(1), 69-72. Journal - Research Article

Thomson, W. M., Broadbent, J. M., Locker, D., & Poulton, R. (2009). Trajectories of dental anxiety in a birth cohort. Community Dentistry & Oral Epidemiology, 37(3), 209-219. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0528.2009.00473.x Journal - Research Article

Moffitt, T. E., Arseneault, L., Belsky, D., Dickson, N., Hancox, R. J., Harrington, H., … Poulton, R., … Thomson, W. M., & Caspi, A. (2011). A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety. PNAS, 108(7), 2693-2698. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1010076108 Journal - Research Article

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