Letter | Published:

Dental research: Quality and sustainability

BDJ volume 222, page 323 (10 March 2017) | Download Citation


Sir, the dental research community has received continuous support by taxpayers in the expectation that results may lead to significant improvements in the public's oral health.1 Arguably, this has not happened and the quality and sustainability of dental research does not match that in other health disciplines. The body of literature on dentistry is dominated by observational studies, short-term trials, reviews or technical reports. Reasons cited for the absence of high-quality research are often related to funding issues, lack of research activity of dental faculty, and separations of the full-time dental faculty.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is the principal funding body for health and medical research in Australia, with an annual budget of AU$700 million. Despite the burdens of poor oral health and increasing dental care spending (AU$9 billion in 2013), oral health is not listed as a National Health Priority Area for NHMRC research funding. Between 2011 and 2015, cancer, mental health, diabetes and cardiovascular disease groups received the greatest proportion of such funding.

Although clinical dentists are the principal leaders of the dental team, their contributions to dental research and peer-review publications are relatively limited.2 In Australia 85% of dentists practise in the private sector resulting in less time to focus on pursuing scholarly activities or national policymaking. Dental faculty shortages have been reported in various countries with income gaps between academic and private posts and the additional time for preparation for academic careers cited as reasons.2 Other factors are a risk of losing the job, reduced potential to achieve tenure or promotion as many dental schools demand peer-reviewed publications and a consistent record of funding.2

Members of the dental team, in particular, dentists, have a responsibility to advocate for funding equity in dentistry and contribute to closing the gap in oral health. Further evidence-based research addressing oral health disparities and burden of oral diseases is needed as this could guide or encourage national funding agencies to prioritise dental research in their funding plans.


  1. 1.

    . Evidence-based dentistry and the dental research community. J Dent Res 1999; 78: 1480–1483.

  2. 2.

    , . The endangered clinical teacher scholar: will this eliminate discovery from the dental school environment? J Dent Res 2008; 87: 200–202.

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  1. Australia

    • M. Estai
    • , S. Bunt
    • , Y. Kanagasingam
    •  & M. Tennant


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