Eastman Institute for Oral Health alumni, faculty and hygienists are participating in a national research network that’s producing an unprecedented knowledge base and will lead to improved patient care faster than ever before.
The National Dental Practice Based Research Network has been so successful that it was recently awarded $22.4 million for another seven years (2019-2026) by the National Institute Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of National Institutes of Health.
Initially in 2005, NIDCR funded three different dental practice based research networks that included 1700 practitioners from 43 states. This success led NIDCR to fund a more consolidated effort by establishing the National Dental Practice Based Research Network in 2012, led by the University of Alabama.
This network, initially funded through Fall 2019, and currently funded through 2026, is comprised of six geographical regions. Eastman Institute for Oral Health runs the northeast region and has enrolled 1,100 providers to date among the 7,000 practitioners nationwide. Many of these have participated in various studies to investigate research questions and share experiences and expertise. Nearly 63,900 patients have participated in various studies.
“The dental practice-based research network is a unique investigative union of real-world practicing clinicians and academic clinical scientists that aims to improve the nation’s oral health by expanding the knowledge base for clinical decision-making and moving the latest evidence into routine care,” said Cyril Meyerowitz, DDS, MS, director emeritus and professor, Eastman Institute for Oral Health, School of Medicine and Dentistry and grant regional principal investigator. “The network is a precious national resource for our profession and our patients, and we are fortunate that NIDCR has invested in the future of our profession.”
The National Dental Practice Based Research Network aims to fill three gaps: The knowledge gap, where the effectiveness of a treatment is unknown, the knowing gap, where the effectiveness of a treatment has been scientifically established, but practitioners are unaware, and the knowing-to-doing gap, where knowledge is available and providers are aware of it, but they have not yet implemented the recommended changes.
Research ideas have largely originated from practitioners, who work closely with academic researchers. Practitioners are engaged at every step, including study design, data collection, data analysis, presentations, and manuscript preparation. The answers can translate quickly into practice. Anyone can visit www.nationaldentalpbrn.org to learn more about study results, member and patient information, and other resources. The research centers are located in Birmingham, AL, Rochester, NY, Gainesville, FL, Minneapolis, MN, San Antonio, TX, Portland, OR, and Chicago, IL.
“It’s real-world clinicians doing real world research that directly impacts how they treat their patients,” explained Dr. Meyerowitz. “And each practitioner has the opportunity to use the results that are useful to their practices and improve the oral health of their patients.”
Take cracked teeth, for example. A very common occurrence among patients, the existing literature says cracked teeth are highly prevalent in adult teeth, are a significant concern to dentists and patients, and can show considerable progression in a relatively short time. But the dentists enrolled in the NDPBRN wanted to know information that’s not in the literature: which cracked teeth are likely to get worse, when should dentists intervene, and what treatment would be most effective?
So interested practitioners and researchers within the NDPBRN designed a research project that included a prospective, observational and a three-year cohort study. All told, dentists around the country observed 3,000 cracked teeth belonging to about 1,500 patients, with the goal of identifying factors associated with change in symptoms and compared effectiveness of treatments.
While some of the data is still being analyzed, there have been numerous papers published as a result of the NDPBRN’s efforts in this area, bringing new enlightenment and many answers.
To date, 38 studies have been completed, published in 138 peer reviewed publications and 43 journals, covering a wide variety of relevant topics.
One study was designed because dentists were looking for ways to more accurately identify suspicious lesions extending into the dentin. Others explored the use of opioid prescriptions in the dental office, predicting successful single-unity crowns, different treatment types related to more successful open bite closure, risk for HPV and oropharyngeal cancer, root canal treatment, orofacial pain and many others.
“These studies, in addition to basic research, are proving to be very valuable as we continue to gather evidence-based data to prevent and treat oral diseases,” added Eli Eliav, DMD, PhD, director of EIOH. “The enthusiasm and wide participation among practitioners and organizations demonstrate the commitment to advancing our knowledge and learn new ways to improve patient health and to further benefit real world, everyday clinical practice.”
The next seven years will continue the work of the network and engage more practitioners and researchers.
In addition to Dr. Meyerowitz, Dorota Kopycka-Kedzierawski, DDS, MPH, associate professor of Dentistry and director of the Clinical and Translational Research Core at Eastman Institute for Oral Health, will serve as assistant director of the Rochester NDPBRN Regional Research Center.