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Dr. Walter Loesche, Authority on Caries and Periodontal Disease, Dies at 77

Posted on Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ann Arbor, MI — October 15, 2012 — Dr. Walter Loesche, one of the world’s authorities on caries and periodontal disease, and a former Marcus L. Ward Professor of Dentistry in the Department of Biologic Materials Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, died October 14. He was 77.

A School of Dentistry faculty member from 1969 until his retirement in 2000 and a professor of microbiology at the Medical School since 1971, Dr. Loesche’s research focused on possible links between periodontal disease, caries, and systemic health. “If periodontal disease is a risk factor in heart disease, then it is a modifiable risk,” he said at the time, “and we can take steps to treat or prevent periodontal disease. That will have implications for the future health and longevity of individuals.” With research funded by the National Institutes of Health beginning in the 1980s, Loesche said there were dramatic improvements in periodontal health accompanied by a reduced need for surgical intervention.

Dr. Loesche earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University (1957), his DMD from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine (1961), a periodontal certificate from the Harvard Forsyth Dental Center (1964), and his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1967).  While earning those degrees, Dr. Loesche was also an assistant staff member, instructor, and research fellow at Harvard, Forsyth, and MIT.

Throughout his career he received numerous awards and honors, including an honorary doctorate from the University of Goteborg, Sweden (1988), and an honorary doctorate from the University of Ghent, Belgium (1992).  He was president of the American Association for Dental Research (1988). 

He received the Distinguished Scientist Award from the International Association for Dental Research (1994) for his caries research.  He was an integral part of organizing a program held at the International Fluoridation Symposium (1995) commemorating 50 years of water fluoridation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was recognized by the Michigan Dental Association for his efforts.

Dr. Loesche published three textbooks, more than 170 peer-reviewed articles, and 50 chapters.  He served on the editorial boards of prominent scientific publications including the Journal of Periodontal Research and the Journal of Oral Microbiology.

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