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NIDCR Establishes National Dental Practice-Based Research Network

Posted on April 13, 2012

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) has awarded a $66.8 million, seven-year grant that consolidates its dental practice-based research network initiative into a unified nationally coordinated effort. The consolidated initiative, renamed The National Dental Practice-Based Research Network (NDPBRN), is headquartered at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Dentistry. It serves as a national administrative hub that leads and oversees six smaller regional research sites, or nodes. The nodes are located in Rochester, NY; Gainesville, Fla.; Birmingham; Minneapolis; San Antonio; and Portland, Ore.

The NIDCR is part of the National Institutes of Health. A dental practice-based research network is a investigative union of practicing dentists and academic scientists. The network provides practitioners with an opportunity to propose or participate in research studies that address day-to-day issues in oral healthcare. The studies, conducted in participating dental offices with consenting patients, help to expand the profession's evidence base and further refine care.

Since launching the practice-based initiative in 2005, NIDCR had supported three regional networks, including one at the UAB School of Dentistry. Each had its own affiliated practitioners, clinical studies, and administrative tasks independent of the others. “A national coordinating center streamlines the network structure for greater financial and administrative efficiency,” said NIDCR Director Martha Somerman, D.D.S., Ph.D. “The national structure also should free those at the regional networks to focus almost solely on research, so, it's an excellent opportunity for everyone.”

The initial seven-year Regional Dental PBRN grants proved extremely productive, Somerman said. The networks enrolled 1,719 practitioners in 43 states. In collaboration with the Dental PBRN academic faculties and staff, the practitioners organized and conducted 51 research studies, generating 87 journal articles on topics ranging from preventive and restorative dentistry to pain management and smoking cessation. “The regional research networks were built from scratch, and it took some time and effort to get them up and running smoothly,” said NIDCR program specialist Donald DeNucci, D.D.S. “But under the current grant, we're now building on our initial investment, and that should lead to a faster start and sustained productivity over the next seven years.”

DeNucci said the NDPBRN plans to expand the number of participating practitioners to 5,000. Greater participation will allow for an increased number and range of studies, the intention being to produce data that can be better generalized to the U.S. population in all its diversity. The NDPBRN also will welcome greater participation of practitioners in the various dental subspecialties. These include endodontists, periodontists, orthodontists, oral surgeons, prosthodontists, oral pathologists, as well as pediatric and public health dentists. “We also welcome the nation's community health centers and the federal dental services, such as those in the Departments of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense, and the Indian Health Service of the Department of Health and Human Services,” said DeNucci. “We can certainly help to develop innovative, low-cost techniques to improve the oral health of all Americans.”

Another objective is to extend practitioner participation across the country. “With today’s advanced communications tools, no rural community is too remote for participation in the national network,” said Gregg Gilbert, D.D.S., M.B.A., the NDPBRN national network director and chair of UAB School of Dentistry's Department of General Dental Sciences. “Our aim is to be inclusive. We want the NDPBRN to truly become the nation's network.”

For more information about the NDPBRN, visit: http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/Research/DER/ClinicalResearch/DentalPracticeBasedResearchNetworks.htm

For a complete list of regional nodes, click here: http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/Research/DER/ClinicalResearch/RegionalNodes.htm

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) is the Nation's leading funder of research on oral, dental, and craniofacial health. To learn more about NIDCR, please visit: www.nidcr.nih.gov

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.