Teeth as Sensory Organs: 3D Correlative Analysis of Nerves and Vasculature in the Periodontal Ligament

Summer 2017

Lynn Yang : Molecular and Cellular Biology, Cognitive Science

Mentor: Sunita Ho

The periodontal ligament (PDL), which surrounds the tooth in its bony socket, is unique amongst mammalian tissues as one of the only ligaments that is both innervated and vascularized. Nerves and vasculature are involved in inflammatory and sensory transduction processes in the PDL of patients who seek orthodontic treatments, such as braces, who generally undergo orthodontic tooth movement (OTM), or tooth movement in response to any non-physiologic force. However, OTM often incurs serious negative consequences, ranging from compromised oral hygiene and severe discomfort during treatment, to orthodontically-induced inflammatory root absorption and frequent relapse of tooth positions post-treatment. The goal of my research is to understand the mechanobiological effects following measured mechanical stimulation of the periodontal complex by focusing on the response of vasculature, nerves, and mineralizing fronts in the periodontal ligament. Through correlative light microscopy, electron microscopy, and X-ray microtomography, this project will augment the currently limited 2D understanding of an involved 3D phenomenon by examining the spatiotemporal distribution and association of nerves and vasculature in response to forces on the periodontal complex. 

I am extremely grateful to the Rose Hills Foundation for providing me this exciting opportunity to make meaningful progress on my research. The generous support has allowed me to focus on my work and develop my lab and professional skills without financial worry. This summer's work has been a huge determining factor in my decision to pursue graduate school, and has been conducive to my establishing clarity in career aspirations and goals. Thank you!