Petra Wilder-Smith

Director of Dentistry, Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic
Professor, School of Medicine

Dr. Petra Wilder-Smith is the Director of Dentistry at UCI Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic and Professor of Surgery at the UCI School of Medicine. She is also a fellow of UCI’s renowned Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and a visiting professor at RWTH Aachen University in Aachen, Germany. For many years she served as lecturer at Loma Linda University School of Dentistry in Loma Linda, California.

For more than 20 years, Dr. Wilder-Smith has worked to improve oral cancer outcomes. She seeks novel, non-invasive optical techniques and studies new methods for the early detection of oral pre-cancer and cancer. Currently, she is the co-principal investigator on a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded study to develop and test a low-cost portable screening device that can detect possible oral cancer to be used by non-specialists in community settings worldwide.

With wide-ranging global and community collaborations on light-based applications approaches to topics, including oral cancer; periodontology; dental decay, de- and remineralization and biofilm, her group’s work spans predictive and diagnostic, as well as therapeutic innovations and applications. The Wilder-Smith lab at UCI Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic has three major research interests:

1) Improving oral cancer outcomes through novel optical modalities coupled with machine learning to permit early detection, monitoring and diagnostic mapping of oral and oropharyngeal
2) Innovative approaches to diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of oral and dental health
3) Developing point-of-care tools for oral and wound infection biofilm diagnosis, monitoring and treatment. She holds multiple patents for this work.

In 2019, Dr. Wilder-Smith and her colleague Cherie Wink, B.S., R.D.H.M.P., an instrumentation expert, established the Institute of Dental Ergonomics, specializing in the development of imaging- and neurophysiologically-based approaches to innovate and assess the ergonomics and functionalities of dental devices and instrumentation. They work closely with dental device and instrumentation designers, companies and clinicians, using a novel “smart” package that combines machine learning-based electomyography (EMG), motion tracking and image analysis techniques.  Their team is dedicated to advancing and testing innovative instrumentation concepts to help reduce the high prevalence of musculoskeletal diseases in dental clinicians, improving career longevity and their overall health, while contributing to better patient care and outcomes.

Dr. Wilder-Smith has published and lectured widely on topics spanning a multitude of articles in scientific and medical journals. She is a widely sought after public speaker at peer-reviewed scientific meetings and public lectures. She serves on numerous advisory boards, including The Medical Advisory Board to Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation, the Board of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery and the Diagnostic Sciences Group for the International Association for Dental Research (IADR), a prestigious group where she served as a former President. She also serves on multiple editorial boards, including Cancers, Lasers in Surgery & MedicinePhotomedicine and Laser Surgery and Journal of Biomedical Optics.

Dr. Wilder-Smith earned her Bachelor of Dental Surgery from Guy’s Hospital, London University, UK with Honors and Distinction; her Licentiate in Dental Surgery from the Royal College of Surgeons of Great Britain; her D.M.D. from Bern University in Switzerland and her Ph.D. in Biomedical Lasers from RWTH Aachen University in Aachen, Germany.

Research Interests
+ Oral and oropharyngeal cancer
+ Quantifying the status of oral hard and soft tissues
+ Biofilm infection

  • Education

    BDS (Hons and Distinction) Guy’s Hospital, London University 1983
    LDS RCS, Dental Surgery, Royal College of Surgeons of Great Britain 1983
    DMD, Doctorate (Dr med dent) Bern University 1985
    Dr. Habil (PhD) Biomedical Lasers Aachen University 1999

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