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What is happening in the development initiative: Promote dental research - investigation of the needs of researchers and the role of the nodes

Eva Lavik Olofsson has been the project leader for the development initiative “Promote dental research; investigation of the needs of researchers and the role of the nodes”. The initiative is finalized and in the interview below she tells more about the the investigation that has been carried out to map the conditions for clinical research and highlight the needs for support in clinical research in dental care (odontology) in Sweden.

Why have we had a development initiative relating to aimed at promoting research in dentistry?

The purpose of the investigation was to map the current situation and identify what support researchers need to conduct clinical research in odontology and in what way Clinical Studies Sweden could contribute to this. The goal was to make suggestions for future activities to promote odontological clinical research in Sweden.

What was the result of the investigation?

The investigation shows that today relatively extensive research is conducted in dentistry. During the years 2017-2021, roughly 1,750 articles were published in the area and during the same period 130 people completed their dissertations. During 2021, approximately 270 clinical research projects were underway.

As part of the investigation, an interview survey was carried out with 13 people in a leading position within the country's public dental care organisations and at the dental universities where dental education is conducted. The interviews showed that there is a great need to promote clinical research in all areas of dentistry. There is a need for consensus and a knowledge that both funding and organisation and resources are required to create and develop structures and networks that benefit clinical research.

Dental care is mainly financed with patient income and, in addition, dental care organisations operate in a competitive market. This means an obstacle to investing resources in research as these resources are needed to generate patient income. Another important obstacle is the lack of staff, above all those with academic credentials.

Several respondents highlighted the importance of there being a research-promoting culture in dental care, both in governance and management. The interviews also showed factors that favor a good research climate in dentistry. However, there seems to be an increased understanding of the varying conditions of dental care among politicians, funders and other decision-makers at different levels, something that is considered positive. This, together with the fact that many employees in dental care are positive about research, can benefit the building of a research-promoting culture in dental care.

In comparison to the Health Care Act, there are no regulations in the Dental Care Act, that the regions must participate in financing, planning and implementation of clinical research work.

Most of the obstacles that emerged during the interviews are outside of Clinical Studies Sweden's mandate to deal with. However, dialogue and knowledge of these obstacles are of the utmost importance in order to identify and work towards solutions to these obstacles.

The nodes within Clinical Studies Sweden could still work on several activities to benefit clinical research in dentistry, for example:

  • Develop and enable networks to support clinical research in dentistry.
  • To disseminate and inform about the support that the nodes can contribute to clinical research.
  • Educational initiatives to increase competence around the laws and guidelines that apply to clinical research and to increase the quality of, for example, applications.
  • To develop structured forms of collaboration between the nodes and the various players in dental care.

What happens next?

Based on the investigation, Clinical Studies Sweden will now evaluate which activities are reasonable and possible to implement.