In 2014 the Board of the Academy of Dental Materials recognized there was an increasing need to provide written mentorship to young faculty and graduate students doing materials research – but not having experienced mentors. The Academy membership includes more than 200 top academic-based dental materials faculty worldwide. We all regularly receive requests for assistance and guidance from young faculty and students. It is often the case that proposed projects are not well conceived, ignore important literature or anticipate using inappropriate methodology. Although our Guidance Project was designed with young researchers in mind, it is also meant to help academic tutors, industry and dental materials researchers in general, with organized and systematic information on how to perform in vitro research of the highest quality possible. We hope this may generate broader discussions on methodology and techniques.
During the early stages of this project, an extended planning meeting was held at the University of Munich Dental School. It was decided to focus upon the three broad topics of Ceramics, Adhesives and Resin-based Composites, which cover the dominant themes of interest to most young investigators in our field. An earlier ADM annual meeting (Portland, 2009) focused on adhesion research and the papers presented have had a significant impact as measured by downloads and citations. A number of these guidance papers have now been published, and we expect a total of about 15 to appear.
These Guidance papers are different from national or international Standards (ISO, ASTM, DIN, JIS, etc.). The latter documents embody highly prescriptive “guidelines” often intended for use by technical staff rather than frontline scientific researchers. Their purpose is to determine compliance or non-compliance of products with agreed minimal performance levels. They may be of great use for research purposes, but often with appropriate modification. For example, water sorption is measured in certain ISO standards over a 7-day period. But research studies may need to extend the measurements over several months, or even years. Again, while the ISO standard (“guidance”) for strength testing of ceramics recommends beveling the edges of bend bars and using fracture surface analysis to verify failure from the expected location, these standards do not inform as to the reason. Moreover, modification may be necessary in specimen preparation from small CAD-CAM blocks.
Our authors represent a sub-set of ADM members – chosen for their recognized contributions and commitment to the respective topic areas – with awareness of the history of development of test methods and the subtlety of specimen preparation. Additional members, with often equal expertise, helped review and editing of the final manuscripts. This has involved extended meetings of the sub-groups, usually around annual conferences of the ADM and the IADR. The Guidance Project has been part supported by ADM funds, where appropriate. However, the contributors have all freely provided their time, energy and expertise.
We hope that many will take advantage of this combined wisdom and that these efforts will elevate the research contributions to the dental materials literature.