Dental Researcher William Bowen Honored

October 26, 2000

A dental researcher at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry has joined an elite group by receiving the American Dental Association's highest honor, the Gold Medal for Excellence.

William Bowen, D.D.S., Ph.D., Welcher Professor of Dentistry, became the sixth recipient of the prestigious Gold Medal. He received a medallion and $25,000 on October 10, 2000, at the annual ADA Board of Trustees meeting. Given once every three years, the award is presented to an individual who has exhibited extraordinary scientific achievement and commitment to service in the profession.

The recipient of many industry, academia and government awards, Bowen is one of the world's leading authorities on the causes and prevention of tooth decay. His discovery in 1997 that prenatal exposure to lead makes rats more susceptible to cavities provoked further research by University of Rochester scientists. Ultimately, the research showed that lead exposure puts children and adults at risk of developing cavities.

Bowen has carried out extensive studies on the interactions of bacteria and food that occur on the tooth surface, resulting in dental plaque formation. His research has also linked the treatment of heart disease and depression with tooth decay, by demonstrating that medications used for those conditions may inhibit the production of saliva, a natural shield against cavities.

"Special care must be taken to observe the adverse effects of some prescription drugs on the teeth and gums, particularly in the elderly,'' Bowen said. "If neglected, they may have a devastating affect on oral health.''

Bowen joined the University of Rochester from the National Institutes of Health in 1982, as chair of the department of dental research. He also founded the Rochester Caries Research Center, one of the first centers in the nation to study tooth decay. In 1998 he received the University's Kornberg Research Award for excellence in medical research.

A Victor resident, Bowen has served in numerous other top academic and government positions, including president of the International Association for Dental Research, and chair of the Food and Drug Administration's subcommittee for dental products sold to the public.

Bowen is a native of Ireland. He earned a dental degree at the National University of Ireland before coming to the University of Rochester for his master's degree. He then earned a doctorate degree at the University of London. He has also been the recipient of five honorary doctorates from universities throughout the world. Bowen is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

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