CHICAGO, August 12, 2022 —The American Dental Association (ADA) today honored Domenick T. Zero, D.D.S., M.S., as the 2022 recipient of the annual Norton M. Ross Award for Excellence in Clinical Research. Launched in 1991 and supported by Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc., the Ross Award recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions in clinical investigations that have advanced the diagnosis, treatment, and/or prevention of craniofacial-oral-dental diseases.
Over a career spanning decades, Dr. Zero has distinguished himself as an investigator of caries, otherwise known as dental cavities. He has conducted research into the fundamental aspects of caries formation and clinical intervention strategies to prevent caries. These studies have focused on dietary and microbial virulence factors; saliva’s role in protecting against caries; caries risk assessment; new clinical methods for early caries detection and assessment of caries activity; fluoride’s mechanism of action, including its oral pharmacokinetics; and the clinical efficacy of topical fluorides. Dr. Zero has also made contributions to the understanding of dental erosion and its prevention.
Given these accomplishments, Carol Anne Murdoch-Kinch, D.D.S., Ph.D., dean of the Indiana University School of Dentistry, credits Dr. Zero with helping to create a “paradigm shift” in dentistry. She notes that Dr. Zero’s research has played a vital role in encouraging clinicians and patients to address caries early in their development, as opposed to waiting for tooth decay to advance to the point that it requires invasive treatment. “His research outcomes are not only significant but impactful for both dental professionals and the community-at-large,” Dr. Murdoch-Kinch wrote in a letter nominating Dr. Zero for the Ross Award.
In addition to his research on caries, Dr. Zero also is conducting studies on temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, which cause pain and discomfort in the jaw, as well as Sjögren’s syndrome, an immune system disorder characterized by dry eyes and dry mouth that is common among those with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. To study his areas of interest as a principal investigator, Dr. Zero has received more than $30 million in research grants from the National Institutes of Health and private industry. In addition, he has published more than 150 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals and book chapters as well as more than 200 abstracts.
Dr. Zero currently serves as tenured professor in the Department of Cariology, Operative Dentistry & Dental Public Health at the Indiana University School of Dentistry, in addition to serving as a graduate faculty member at Purdue University and an adjunct professor at the IU School of Medicine. He recently stepped down as director of the Oral Health Research Institute at IUSD after serving for 22 years. He was a member of the expert panel responsible for the ADA’s 2018 clinical practice guideline on noninvasive caries treatments and currently serves on the panels responsible for the upcoming ADA guidelines on caries prevention and invasive caries treatments.
“In identifying experts to serve on the panels responsible for developing the ADA’s caries guidelines, it was a no-brainer to include Dr. Zero as he is truly one of the giants in cariology,” said Marcelo Araujo, D.D.S., M.S., Ph.D., chief executive officer of the ADA Science & Research Institute, which administers the Ross Award. “And then on top of that expertise, when you consider Dr. Zero’s contributions to the study of dental erosion, TMJ disorders, and Sjögren’s syndrome; his prolific output in peer-reviewed journals; and the positive impact he has had as an educator and mentor of young scientists, you can see what a wide-ranging and impressive career Dr. Zero has had. It is an honor to recognize him with this award.”
As recipient of the 2022 Ross Award, Dr. Zero was honored at a private ceremony in Chicago where he received a plaque and $5,000 honorarium.
The Ross Award is named after Dr. Norton Ross, a dentist and pharmacologist who spent most of his career in academic and research positions and elevated clinical research to higher scientific standards. For more information about the award, visit ADA.org/Ross.