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Since 2005, the UAB-led National Dental Practice-Based Research Network has conducted dozens of studies involving thousands of dental practitioners and patients. Now there is statistical evidence that the results of those efforts are being well received by the scientific community.

Gregg Gilbert, DDSGregg Gilbert, DDSThe National Institutes of Health uses a measure called the Relative Citation Ratio (RCR) to quantify the influence of a research article in terms of how often the work is cited by other scientists. The median for all NIH publications is set at 1.0.

In an analysis conducted earlier this year (https://doi.org/10.1017/cts.2022.421), the Network’s 167 peer-reviewed scientific publications from 2006-2021 received an RCR of 1.4, significantly exceeding the average among all publications in the database. In addition, nine of the Network’s publications ranked above the 90th percentile overall, and 15 others ranked between the 80th and 90th percentiles.

“This shows that not only are these studies being done successfully and leading to scientific publications, but that these publications have a very significant impact factor as judged by how commonly they’re being cited in the scientific community,” says Gregg Gilbert, DDS, Distinguished Professor/Chair in the UAB School of Dentistry and National Network Director “So it’s validation from scientific experts that these are good, impactful studies.”

The Network is a consortium of dental practices and organizations committed to advancing knowledge of practical science within the dental community. UAB leads and oversees six smaller regional research centers located in Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon, New York and Texas.

“One of the objectives of this initiative is to engage dentists who are in everyday clinical practice in the excitement of scientific discovery,” Gilbert says. “The old way of conducting oral-health research was to do it at academic health centers, where only a very small percentage of the population actually receives its care. This way is a means of engaging dentists who are actually out in the community – where just about everyone gets their care – in the research process.”

Gregg Gilbert at workSince its inception, the Network has conducted a total of 58 studies that either have been completed, are in data collection, or are in development. These studies have investigated a broad range of clinical topics using a wide variety of study designs. A total of 70,665 patients and 19,827 practitioners have been enrolled in the various studies. Electronic records were utilized for an additional 790,493 patients in two data-only studies.

“The clinical topics in these research studies are ones that the practitioners themselves are interested in and think will impact the care of their patients,” Gilbert says. “And by improving everyday clinical care, we are improving the oral health of patients out in the community. When patients walk into a practice, they want to feel confident that their practitioner is on the cutting edge of continually improving the quality of dental care.”

The Network is midway through a seven-year, $22.4-million grant from the NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. When the grant was awarded in 2019, it increased the amount of total funding the Network had received since its inception to more than $117 million.

Gilbert says the recent RCR analysis shows that those funds have been well spent.

“This has been really successful,” Gilbert says. “We’ve engaged with a large number of patients and practitioners across the nation. We’ve done a lot of studies, and they’ve gone well. They’ve been accepted by the scientific community as studies that will improve everyday clinical care.”