Robert Lee Vanarsdall Jr., Orthodontics and Periodontics

Robert Lee Vanarsdall Jr., chairman emeritus of the department of orthodontics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, died on January 1. He was 76.

Dr. Vanarsdall was born in Crewe, Virginia. He received his undergraduate degree at the College of William & Mary. He served in the US Navy as a line officer from 1962-1965. He received his dental degree from the Medical College of Virginia and completed his post-doctoral specialty training at Penn.

He started his career at Penn as a teaching fellow in the department of orthodontics in 1972. He became an assistant professor in 1973 and became an associate professor in 1980. In 1993, he became a professor. He served as chairman of the department of periodontics, department of pediatric dentistry and directed orthodontics at Penn from 1981-2011. He was also a visiting professor at the University of Sydney and University of Adelaide. While teaching, he continued to maintain a private practice.

He was chairman emeritus of the department of orthodontics at the time of this death.

At Penn, he researched periodontal risks and susceptibility in orthodontic patients to improve diagnosis and treatment outcomes. His clinical trials established the transverse skeletal discrepancy as a reliable predictor of increased risk of gingival recession. He also was first to report on the favorable skeletal effects of lip bumper therapy on the transverse dimension in early treatment to enhance periodontal health for young children.

Dr. Vanarsdall spent 17 years as editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Adult Orthodontics and Orthognathic Surgery. He was coauthor of Orthodontics: Current Principles and Techniques, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th editions and coauthor of Applications of Orthodontic Mini Implants. He published chapters in 12 other textbooks and more than 100 scientific articles and abstracts. He established the first and only remaining orthodontic/periodontal graduate program accredited by the American Dental Association since it began in 1976. 

He served as program chairman for the American Association of Orthodontists in 1994 and 2002, and on the Council of Scientific Affairs. He was president of the Philadelphia Society of Orthodontists and the Eastern Component of the E.H. Angle Society of Orthodontists in 2005 and examiner for the American Board of Orthodontics, from 2009-2012. He received the Dale B. Wade Award for Excellence in Teaching from the American Board of Orthodontics in 2012.

He was preceded in death by his wife of nearly 50 years, Sandra.

He is survived by his son, Lee (Rachel); daughters, Lesley and Ashley Burke (Brendan); five grandchildren; and his siblings, Joseph and Barbara Ragland.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Dr. Robert Vanarsdall Fellowship Fund at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine Department of Orthodontics at https://giving.apps.upenn.edu/giving/jsp/fast.do