Caries researcher wins ADA Ross Award

Domenick T. Zero, D.D.S., studies caries formation, prevention

Top researcher: Domenick T. Zero, D.D.S., is the winner of this year's ADA Norton M. Ross Award for Excellence in Clinical Research.

An Indiana University professor who has studied the fundamental aspects of caries formation and clinical intervention strategies to prevent them has won the American Dental Association's 2022 Norton M. Ross Award for Excellence in Clinical Research.

"I'm very honored and pleased to receive this award from the American Dental Association," said Domenick T. Zero, D.D.S., a tenured professor in the department of cariology, operative dentistry and dental public health at the IU School of Dentistry. "Most of my professional career has been dedicated to clinical research directed at improving oral health, mainly focused on the prevention of dental caries and erosion."

In his research, Dr. Zero has examined 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.

In addition to his research on caries, Dr. Zero is also conducting studies on temporomandibular joint disorders, 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. He has received more than $30 million in research grants from the National Institutes of Health and private industry. He has also published more than 150 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals and book chapters, as well as more than 200 abstracts.

Dr. Zero was a member of the expert panel responsible for the ADA's 2018 clinical practice guideline on nonrestorative treatments for caries lesions and now serves on the panels working on the upcoming ADA guidelines on caries prevention and restorative treatments for caries lesions.

"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., Ph.D., CEO 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."

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 prevention of craniofacial, oral and dental diseases.

The award honors the memory of 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. Dr. Zero was honored at a private ceremony Aug. 12 in Chicago, where he received a plaque and $5,000 honorarium.

IU School of Dentistry Dean Carol Anne Murdoch-Kinch, D.D.S., Ph.D., who nominated Dr. Zero for the award, credits him with helping to create a "paradigm shift" in dentistry. She said 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 her nomination letter.

Dr. Zero recently stepped down as director of the Oral Health Research Institute at the IU School of Dentistry after serving for 22 years. He is also an adjunct professor at the IU School of Medicine and a graduate faculty member at Purdue University.

"I had the opportunity of meeting Dr. Ross early in my career and hold him and his contributions to clinical research in the highest regard," Dr. Zero said. "I want to thank the ADA and Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. for sponsoring the award and IUSD Dean Murdoch-Kinch for nominating me."

For more information on the Ross Award, visit

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