The dental research community has received continuous support by taxpayers in confidence that outcomes will result in major progress in the public’s oral health. Even though this has not happened and the quality and sustainability of dental research does not conform to other health disciplines. Literature on dentistry is mostly consists of observational studies, short-term trials, reviews or technical reports. The lack of high-quality research can be attributed to funding issues, lack of research activity of dental faculty, and segregations of the full-time dental faculty.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is the the prevailing funding body for health and medical research in Australia, with an annual budget of AU$700 million. Despite the challenges of inferior oral health and growing dental care spending (AU$9 billion in 2013), oral health is not deemed as a National Health Priority Area for NHMRC research funding. Between 2011 and 2015, cancer, mental health, diabetes and cardiovascular disease groups received the ultimate proportion of such funding.
Although clinical dentists are the key leaders of the dental team, their contributions to dental research and peer-review publications are limited to a certain extent. In Australia, 85 percent of dentists practise in the private sector resulting in limited time being allocated to the pursuit of scholarly activities or national policymaking. The lack of dental faculty have been disclosed in several countries with income gaps between academics and private posts and the extra time for preparation for academic careers cited as reasons. Other elements, are a possibility of losing the job, diminished probability to attain tenure or promotion as many dental schools require peer-reviewed publications and an uniform record of funding.
Members of the dental team, in particular, dentists, have an obligation to advocate for funding equity in dentistry and contribute to minimising the gap in oral health. In addition, evidence-based research rectifying oral health disparities and issues of oral diseases is needed as this could guide or prompt national funding agencies to place emphasis on dental research in their funding proposals.
Participate in the upcoming QS Subject Focus Summit – Dentistry under the theme of “Changing Paradigm in Dental Education for Future Excellence” from 4-6 April 2019 in Seoul, South Korea.