Woman in scrubs at a computer.

Following from the School's vision to lead oral health care, the Department's vision is to comprise the clinical sciences and community sciences component of this vision.

Following from the School's mission to optimize oral health in Alabama and beyond, the Department of Clinical & Community Sciences seeks to improve the oral health of the population through its teaching, service, and research missions.

A key goal for the department is to generate new knowledge to improve care in both the academic clinical setting and in the community, "real world" setting. It is in the community setting where almost all of the population at large receives its dental care. In the academic clinical setting, this research typically involves developing clinical applications for dental care and determining the efficacy of care -- that is, whether a new application works in highly-controlled, ideal settings. In the community setting, this research typically involves determining the effectiveness of care -- that is, whether a new application actually works in "real world" settings wherein clinicians and patients may be operating under a wide range of constraints, motivations, and incentives. The department seeks to bridge research across these two settings, for the benefit of care and research in both settings. It seeks to move applications from efficacy to effectiveness. It seeks to benefit the community setting by moving knowledge from the academic setting to the community setting. It also seeks to benefit the academic setting by moving knowledge from the community setting to the academic setting. Knowledge in the community setting can lead to improvements in the academic setting and can provide ideas for new studies in the academic setting. Because the department comprises a single unified structure focused on a common mission, it can effectively integrate these functions toward their common goals. The Department integrates these diverse functions via a structure that comprises two Divisions, as well as a master's degree program, an NIH-sponsored national research program, and a biostatistics unit. View an organizational chart for the department.

Division of Behavioral & Population Sciences

Programs

The Department is the national administrative base for The National Dental Practice-Based Research Network. The National Network Director is Dr. Gregg Gilbert. The “nation’s network” is a consortium of participating practices and dental organizations committed to advancing knowledge of dental practice and ways to improve it. Essentially, it is "practical science" done about, in, and for the benefit of "real world" daily clinical practice. This means that the practitioner-investigators themselves not only participate in developing study ideas, but also participate in designing, conducting, and communicating this research - all with the intent of having a direct impact on clinical practice in non-academic settings. The network's major source of funding is the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The network comprises practices from six United States regions. In addition to the Birmingham location are hubs in Rochester, New York; Gainesville, Florida; Minneapolis, Minnesota; San Antonio, Texas; and Portland, Oregon.

Division of Biomaterials

Programs

Students are educated in basic material science, with a specific focus on dental materials. This variety of course work allows the student to develop skills and knowledge necessary for productive research, clinical, and teaching careers.

Research Component

Students are offered research opportunities related to their interests and talents. Because of the diversity of projects at UAB, students will participate in a variety of research topics. Students typically work with departmental faculty to assist with projects while learning laboratory skills and techniques. Toward the end of the program, the student will choose a thesis project.

Upon completion of the program, the successful Master’s candidate will be well-versed in current literature (dental biomaterials as well as clinical dentistry and specific research areas). They will be familiar with ADA specifications and testing and conduct a variety of in vitro tests. Students will be taught how to design and implement a research protocol, and interpret these results in a scientific paper. More information on possible areas of research interest can be obtained from our faculty page.

Clinical Dentistry

As a relatively new addition to the Master’s program in biomaterials, residents are offered training in conducting clinical research trials. Patient experiences may include direct restorations, single crowns and other aspects of general dentistry. Opportunities are available to observe and assist faculty members in advanced dental treatment cases. This portion of the program has been well received, and promises to add a unique and important dimension to the training program. It has been especially helpful to foreign-trained dentists, as it gives a unique perspective on differences in training between the U.S. and abroad.

Summary

Our goal is to see our Master’s students graduate with research experience, at least one publication, and a solid background in dental biomaterials. We feel these graduates will be well positioned for an academic career in the United States or abroad.