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Photo of Nicholas, Christina

Christina Nicholas, PhD

Associate Professor

College of Dentistry, Department of Orthodontics

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers


Building & Room:

College of Denstistry 419C


801 S. Paulina St.

Office Phone:


CV Download:



I'm a biological anthropologist by training, though my primary appointment is in the College of Dentistry. I completed my PhD in Anthropology at the University of Iowa, where I also did a postdoc in the Iowa Institute for Oral Health Research. My background is in paleoanthropology and human variation. My research focuses on factors, genetic and environmental, which influence craniofacial growth and development. I am particularly interested in how obesity affects dental development and eruption - we know that children with obesity erupt their teeth at younger ages, but we don't know why. My lab has a new NIJ-funded project aimed at developing improved dental age estimation formulae. My lab is actively recruiting PhD students (for more information, please visit my lab website).

Selected Grants

National Institute of Justice Research and Development in Forensic Sciences for Criminal Justice Purposes, DENTAGE: A multi-component subadult dental age estimation method, PI (2023-2025)

Center for Clinical and Translational Science Pilot Grant, The effects of Food Insecurity on the Oral Microbiomes of Children in Chicago, PI (2019)

American Association of Orthodontists Foundation Biomedical Research Award, Childhood obesity, oral inflammation, and timing of dental development, PI (2018)

Selected Publications

Farhi, M, Tomas, N, Marion, I, Avenetti, D, Atsawasuwan, P, da Fonseca, M, Al Atabbe, M, Nicholas, CL. 2023. Evaluation of the (hu)MANid program for sex and ancestry estimation in a diverse, contemporary CT scan-based sample. Journal of Forensic Sciences. 68(1), 242-251.

Nguyen, A, Caplin, J, Avenetti, D, Durfee, S, Kusnoto, B, Sciote, JJ, Nicholas, CL. 2022. A longitudinal assessment of sex difference in the growth of the mandibular retromolar space. Archives of Oral Biology. 143, 105547.

Cardona Salazar, DK, Caplin, J, Whyms, P, Alrayyes, S, Nikita, E, Galang-Boquiren, MT, Truskoski, D, Naqvi, A, Nicholas, CL. 2022. Nutrition, obesity, and dental development in young adolescents in Chicago. American Journal of Human Biology. e23721.

Butaric, LN, Nicholas, CL, Plotzke, K, Maddux, SD. 2021. Ontogenetic variation in human nasal morphology. The Anatomical Record. 1:28.

Gordon, LA, Miller, SF, Caplin, J, Galang-Boquiren, MT, Alrayyes, S, Nicholas, CL. 2021. Childhood Obesity May Accelerate Timing of Human Facial Growth. Archives of Oral Biology. 1;121:104964.

Barque, A, Jan, K, De La Fuente, E, Nicholas, CL, Hynes, RO, Naba, A. 2021. Knockout of the gene encoding the extracellular matrix protein SNED1 results in early neonatal lethality and craniofacial malformations. Developmental Dynamics. 250(2):274-94.

Haley, CM, Brown, B, Koerber, A, Nicholas, CL, Belcher, A. 2020. Comparing Case-Based with Team-Based Learning: Dental Students’ Satisfaction, Level of Learning, and Resources Needed. Journal of Dental Education. 84(4): 486-494.

Nicholas, CL, Kedavy, K, Holton, NE, Marshall, T, Richter, A, Southard, T. 2018. Childhood body mass index is associated with early dental development and eruption in a longitudinal sample from the Iowa Growth Study. American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics.154: 78-87.

Nicholas, CL, Thalji, G, Richter, A.  2018. Childhood obesity and accelerated timing of dental maturation: A critical review. Forensic Anthropology. 1: 170-179.

Marchi, D, Proctor, D, Huston, E, Nicholas, CL, Fischer F. 2017. Morphological correlates of the first metacarpal proximal articular surface with manipulative capabilities in apes, humans, and South African early hominins. Comptes Rendus Palevol. 16: 645-654

Nicholas, CL, Franciscus, RG. 2014. The Ontogeny of Nasal Floor Shape Variation in Extant Humans. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 115: 369-378.

Professional Leadership

Treasurer, Dental Anthropology Association


Postdoctoral Fellowship, Iowa Institute for Oral Health Research, University of Iowa (2015-2016)
PhD in Biological Anthropology, University of Iowa (2015)
MA in Biological Anthropology, University of Iowa (2009)
BS in Anthropology, Michigan State University (2006)

Professional Memberships

American Association of Biological Anthropologists

American Association for Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Research

Dental Anthropology Association

American Association for Dental Education

American Association for Anatomy

Research Currently in Progress

“DENTAGE: A multi-component subadult dental age estimation method” seeks to refine and develop dental age estimations using a contemporary, diverse sample of participants from the US (Chicago and Philadelphia). Our current dental age estimation methods are largely based on historical and/or archaeological data, and do not include environmental variables. Through a prospective data collection approach, we are building a new, comprehensive dataset to use to develop updated formulae. This project is in collaboration with Drs. James Sciote and Jeffrey Godel at Temple University, Dr. Efthynia Nikita (Cyprus Institute), and Dr. Michael Colvard (UIC).


“Obesity, oral inflammation, and timing of dental development” is a project aimed at increasing our understanding of the relationship between childhood obesity and dentofacial growth and development. Related to this project, my lab is also investigating aspects of periodontal health and microbiome diversity in children with obesity. Our collaborators include: Drs. Sloan Williams, Giamilla Fantuzzi, Sahar Alrayyes, Maribel Campos Rivera (U Puerto Rico), Lydia Lopez (U Puerto Rico), Carmen Buxo-Martinez (U Puerto Rico), and the Naqvi Lab (UIC).


“Biomechanical environment of the cleft defect” is an investigation of “functional envelope” around the alveolus in individuals with and without alveolar clefting. We have undertaken 3D geometric morphometric modeling of cleft defect shape and developed a Finite Elements Analysis (FEA) model of stress/strain under standard biting conditions. Our next step is to use surface electromyography (sEMG) to assess variation in stress/strain patterns during non-masticatory behaviors. This project is in collaboration with Dr. Amanda Smith (Pacific Northwest University).