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Anne C.R. Tanner, BDS, PhD

Emerita Member of Staff

Associate Professor in Oral Medicine, Infection, and Immunity, Harvard School of Dental Medicine

Anne Tanner is a Forsyth dentist/microbiologist whose research interests have encompassed periodontal infections and dental caries (cavities). Her pivotal studies in anaerobic microbiology led to the description of several major periodontal pathogens including Bacteroides forsythus, which was reclassified to Tannerella forsythia in recognition of her work. This added to Prevotella tannerae which was previously described by a colleague, Peg (Holdeman) Moore.

“My research goal is to expand our knowledge of the bacteria causing dental infections” said Tanner. “If we know which bacteria to target for improved treatment and prevention, we can help keep adults and children free from dental pain with good teeth to last lifelong”.

Good dental health starts in childhood but can be devastated by dental cavities. Early childhood caries can destroy baby teeth, cause painful abscesses and is a major reason for hospital visits for young children. Despite advances in prevention, cavities remain a significant clinical and public health challenge that can affect the mouth and general health of children.

There has been an explosion in our understanding of the diverse microbiology of dental caries. The Tanner laboratory has contributed to this knowledge in describing that the major species are cultivable and that a newly recognized anaerobic species, Scardovia wiggsiae, was highly associated with childhood caries, in addition to the traditional pathogen Streptococcus mutans. The group has further examined the importance of Scardovia wiggsiae and other Actinomyces-like species in childhood caries. With Forsyth colleagues they have used novel sequencing methods to seek which and how microbes and microbial communities are active in progressing dental decay. She also works on the HOMD database project and in growing uncultivated bacteria with Floyd Dewhirst and co-workers.

In “retirement” under the inspiration of Dr. Wen Shi, Tanner is leading a group of colleagues to assemble an updated history of the Forsyth Institute. In addition to teasing out Forsyth’s role in improving child oral health, the author team are highlighting innovative research of Forsyth scientists over the last 100 years.

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