Charles Hildebolt, D.D.S., M.A., Ph.D., is a professor of radiology at Washington University School of Medicine, an adjunct professor of anthropology at Washington University and an adjunct clinical associate professor at Saint Louis University Center of Advanced Dental Education. In addition, he is biostatistical consultant for Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine.
He earned his B.S. (1966) and D.D.S. (1970) from The Ohio State University, and his M.A. (1985) and Ph.D. (1987) from Washington University. From 1970-1973, Hildebolt served as a United States Army staff dentist, captain and director of the oral surgery clinic. Prior to entering the field of research, he had a private dental practice in Dayton, Ohio from 1974-1983.
Hildebolt’s long-term research goal is to identify treatments that minimize oral bone loss. To achieve this goal, he is investigating new methods for using digital dental radiographic images to obtain oral bone mass measurements. He intends to use these methods for osteoporotic risk assessment, treatment monitoring, and research. With methods that he and his colleagues have developed, they have found that oral bone loss is associated with femoral and vertebral bone loss and that estrogen and/or vitamin D and calcium can reduce this bone loss. He and his colleagues are currently investigating the extent to which increased intakes of vitamin D and calcium improve oral health in adults. In addition to this research, Hildebolt serves as the biostatistician for two NIH-funded projects: R01 HL70037, Quantification of Lung Ventilation and Structure by 3He MR; and 1R01NS055963-01A2, Quantitative Bold Contrast in Health and Disease.
Hildebolt has been an active AADR member since 1986 and has participated on several committees. Since 2004, he has served as the secretary/treasurer of the IADR Diagnostic Systems Scientific Group.
What motivated you to enter the research field?
In college, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. I took a lot of chemistry and physics courses, which I enjoyed. I also took a lot of microbiology courses because that was my major. I was thinking about entering the field of medicine but I always enjoyed doing things with my hands. Dentistry seemed to be a close match to medicine and it would allow me to work with my hands, but I never really thought about sitting at a dental chair day in and day out. I had a dental practice for nine years and I got tired of the routine. I wanted more adventure in my life, which led me to go back to school for an M.A. and Ph.D. in physical anthropology. There was a radiologist on my dissertation committee and before I finished my Ph.D. thesis, I was offered a full-time job in radiology. My plan was to do it for a year or two—that was nearly 25 years ago. At that time there was a dental school here at Washington University and I ended up having a joint appointment at the dental school and the medical school in radiology. In 1992 they closed the dental school and radiology picked up my tenure track and I continued in the radiology field.
How did you first get involved with AADR?
I joined AADR as a graduate student. Before I joined, I wanted to present my thesis research and one of my dissertation committee members, who was a member of AADR, suggested that I present material at the AADR Annual Meeting. That was a great suggestion. I think that being a member of AADR and participating in the meetings—particularly for students and young researchers—is outstanding. At least for me, I was able to not only meet the people who were reviewing manuscripts but also people who were editors of journals. I was also able to meet people who were reviewing my grants and in time, I started reviewing grants and I had editorial responsibilities. Some of the same people I had originally met at my first AADR meeting are now friends of mine. I see them often and we get to collaborate and exchange ideas. AADR has been good for me and it has given back more than I have put into it.
How important do you think cross-collaboration with other scientific disciplines is to the future of dental, oral and craniofacial research?
I think it’s really important. I can’t speak for other people but I know I wouldn’t be able to complete my work without collaborating with others. I think it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be a jack of all trades and it just doesn’t work. I do a lot of collaborating with a colleague of mine who is in internal medicine. I’m in radiology so I have access to a lot of tools that we can use in research, and craniofacial morphology and genetics. My colleague doesn’t have access to those tools and I’m not an expert in his field, which is why it’s important for us to cross-collaborate so that we can both achieve our research goals.
Where do you feel the research community would be without AADR’s advocacy efforts?
I think the community would be a lot smaller. In today’s political climate, these Congressional representatives have to make very hard decisions and be very selective in government funding and operations that are supported. This is why it’s important for AADR and AADR members to communicate with their Congressional representatives and educate them about the value of our research. I’m confident that without the advocacy, we wouldn’t have as much of the support for dental, oral and craniofacial research that we have today.
What are you doing to support AADR in its advocacy efforts?
I joined AADR Advocates in support of dental, oral and craniofacial research in general. I benefit from this because I do dental and craniofacial research. If we as researchers don’t become AADR Advocates and help AADR, who will advocate for us? Most of these Congressional representatives are not scientists and they won’t know what craniofacial research is and why it’s important unless we explain it to them. I use the messaging tool in the AADR Legislative Action Center to communicate with my Congressional representatives, and I customize my messages to make them more personal. I do get responses from them and some of the responses are more personal. It takes seconds to do and there’s no reason for me to not help out.