KEEPING UP TO DATE WITH RESEARCH
The science of dentistry is forever changing and the oral health educator (OHE) needs to keep up to date with current advances and scientific research by reading and understanding research papers and studies. Research papers can be obtained by reading journals and searching the Internet.
The results of research can be interesting, but it is necessary to be able to interpret the way that the research has been carried out to decide whether the results are clinically significant. The OHE should also ascertain how the research was funded and if there may be bias, for example, if it was funded by a company who could benefit from the results.
Significance of research papers
When the OHE reads a research paper, a structured approach will help decide on its significance to their role, by considering:
- What is the specific aim of the study?
- What are the outcomes?
- How was the study conducted?
- How good is the evidence?
When looking at a research paper for the first time, the terminology used can be confusing. The OHE should be familiar with the following scientific terminology, which will help when reading research papers.
An abstract is a brief overview of a study/piece of research, which includes the subject, principle tools used, results and conclusions.
Qualitative research is used to explore and understand people’s beliefs, experiences, attitudes, behaviour and interactions, for example, to record opinions in focus groups.
Quantitative research generates numerical data or data that can be converted into numbers, for example, clinical trials or the National Census. This type of research produces numerical results, for example, ‘8 out of 10 people questioned said they flossed daily’.
Epidemiology is the study of the distribution and determinants of disease within a population. Commonly, the findings are reported for the benefit of public health (see Chapter 29).
Incidence describes the occurrence, rate or frequency of new diseases in a defined population over a specific period of time, such as periodontal disease, heart disease or cancer.
Prevalence describes the total number of existing cases (old and new), during a particular period of time (period prevalence