Inside Dentistry
February 2008
Volume 4, Issue 2

From the Editor

Gerard Kugel, DMD, MS, PhD

Dear Readers,

This month, Inside Dentistry differentiates the various types of research undertaken to evaluate the multitude of products and techniques available for use in clinical practice. Throughout the profession there has been confusion—if not conflict—regarding the usefulness of one type of research over another.

As the interviewees in our cover feature article explain, there are similarities and differences, virtues and vices among office-based and university-based research studies, as well as practice-based or publication-based product evaluations. It is collectively and after the studies themselves are studied that they can contribute to an evidence-based approach to dental treatment decision making and product selection that ultimately could benefit patient care.

Judge the Evidence for Yourself. Properly conducted, thoroughly reported, and relevantly applied research can sometimes be difficult to distinguish among the vast array of articles, reports, and reviews that compose today’s dental publications, whether print or electronic. In a 2006 editorial, I emphasized that as clinicians, we need to be critical of any “evidence” we are given and determine if it is weak or sufficient to support whatever claims are being made. Nothing has changed, and we probably need to be more critical now than ever before.

Ask the Tough Questions. Understanding the manner in which research was conducted is essential in order for clinicians to judge for themselves its validity and relevancy in their own practice. Therefore, scrutiny of research reports, product evaluations, and clinical studies entails asking many questions. Were the research methods sound? Did the study design involve randomized clinical trials or in vitro testing? Was a control group used? Was the scientific method followed and can the results be duplicated?

Who’s Behind the Curtain? Different types of research hold the potential and promise to complement the others by supplementing the base of professional scientific knowledge. However, as I have suggested in past issues of this publication, an understanding of the basis for that respective research, any potential influences and biases, is of paramount importance. Was there anything influencing the content of the research report or evaluation? How was the research conducted and who conducted it? Were other products or techniques in a given category also evaluated? Basically, is the source of the information among those you trust and know to be credible?

We hope you enjoy this issue and find that it enhances your ability to scrutinize and evaluate the various product, technique, and material research reports, reviews, and articles that you may encounter among your dental-related literature. We also hope that it enables you to determine how best to weigh such information when making decisions that affect your patients. Please send us your feedback to letters@insidedentistry.net. As I emphasize each month, your thoughts, opinions, and reactions motivate us to continually improve our clinical content and coverage of the topics impacting our profession. Thank you for reading and for your continued support.

With warm regards,

Gerard Kugel, DMD, MS, PhD
Associate Dean for Research
Tufts University School of Dental Medicine

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