Alexandre R. Vieira

Full Professor of Oral Biology, Pediatric Dentistry, Human Genetics, and Anthropology, Director of Student Research, Director of Clinical Research School of Dental Medicine University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Vieira grew up in a low midclass family in Rio de Janeiro and it was his fate to have toothache. Treating those proved to continue to be memorable since the dentist suggested there was no need for the use of local anesthetics. This experience and later his need for orthodontic treatment, which was done at low cost at a local residency program at the Brazilian Dental Association, woke him to his interest in dentistry.

Dr. Vieira earned a DDS years later, graduating from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in January 17, 1992. After his mandatory military service as a dentist in the Brazilian Navy, he saved enough money to return to his studies and was admitted to a residency program at the same Brazilian Dental Association building he was once a patient in orthodontics in Dentistry for Individuals with Special Needs, which he finished in December of 1993. Since many cases were children, he decided to study pediatric dentistry and was admitted to the residency program in Pediatric Dentistry at his alma later Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, which he concluded in December 1994. That was followed by a Master’s program in Pediatric Dentistry in the same department and he defended his thesis June 20, 1997, working on fluoride release of glass ionomer composite hybrid materials. His interest in Cariology just grew from that first experience, as he went to earn a PhD in Genetics, working on genetics of cleft lip and palate, also at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. This experience brought the opportunity of a post-doc at the University of Iowa, focusing on human molecular genetics. He obtained his first NIH grant at the age of 33, and the idea was to look at dental developmental problems to analyze gene contributions to children born with cleft lip and palate. This protocol was developed in the Philippines on almost 75 families and 650 individuals and to define tooth agenesis, he devised a careful scoring of caries experience. With these data, he performed the first genome wide linkage study on dental caries and brought to light an emphasis that was lacking in the Cariology which is the focus on the susceptible individual. His group became one of the most visible one in the world with this approach of looking at genetic variation to suggest an explanation to individual susceptibility to oral disease. He has extended his studies to a number of topics in Cariology, including erosive tooth wear, molar incisor hypomineralization, and dental fluorosis. Particularly for dental caries, he has look at defining the disease beyond just the presence of absence of caries lesions, and has worked to unveil disease patterns and trajectories of lifetime disease of individuals to enhance his ability to identify biological etiological factors for dental caries. His studies currently combine genetic variation, microbiome and proteomics along with careful clinical descriptions.

To support these studies, he has created the Dental Registry and DNA Repository project, the only one in the world that keeps comprehensive dental clinical descriptions linked to a biological sample (saliva). Currently, the project has more than 6,700 participants.

Dr. Vieira has published more than 350 peer-reviewed papers, editorials, letter to the editor, book chapters. and books, including the Genetic Basis of Oral Health Conditions published by Springer, which was inspired by his worldwide recognized Craniofacial Genetics course that he teaches for 14 years in Pittsburgh. Also, among his publications, a paper that is the most cited per year on the cleft lip and palate field, and one on genetics of caries that was the most cited of the year of 2015 in Caries Research, elevating the impact factor of the journal at that time to almost 2.

He has mentored more than 200 students in his lab, from high school to post-docs, and has received a number of awards, including the Distinguished Scientist in Dental Caries Research Award from IADR in 2015, the Gies Award for best paper published at the Journal of Dental Research three times in 11 years (the only one on the history of the award), the Willian Gies Award of Vision from the ADEA Foundation in 2019, he was given chair # 87 on the Brazilian Academy of Dentistry in 2019, and received the ORCA Award in 2021. In 2020, he was elected to be president of the American Association for Dental Research (AADR).

He has lectured in all continents and has reviewed grants for agencies of several countries. He currently is Full Professor of Oral Biology, Pediatric Dentistry Human Genetics, and Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine, and also serves as Director of Student Research and Director of Clinical Research in the school.