Most notable of these are the periodontal diseases, affecting some 7 out of 10 adults, which are responsible for much of the tooth loss in adults, and are now replacing caries as the most prevalent infection in humans. Other oral diseases include oral cancer; salivary dysfunction; oral mucous membrane lesions such as aphthous ulcers; oral herpes; oral diseases in patients with systemic diseases, such as periodontal disease in diabetics; and oral candidiasis and necrotic periodontal lesions in AIDS patients. There are many opportunities for improving the general health of humankind from expanded clinical research in oral health. In view of the opportunities for application of knowledge and technologies to manage and prevent oral diseases and their sequelae, specific barriers and opportunities for clinical research were examined.

The product of the task force's assessment was a series of recommendations that can be summarized as follows:

  • Increase the funding for population-based clinical studies and technology transfer.

  • Educate dental scientists to existing resources that can be used in clinical dental research.

  • Improve the peer review structure for clinical dental research proposals.

  • Address the shortage in human resources needed to accomplish dental clinical research objectives by developing an essentially new type of investigator, the senior dental clinical scientist; improving the clinical research competencies of both seasoned and young dentist-scientists with basic science training; and capitalizing on the capabilities of existing dental clinical faculty through the implementation of an innovative short-term training program for dental clinical research associates.

  • Address important structural barriers existing in many dental schools that limit their clinical research capabilities and facilitate the transition of these institutions into viable and productive members of the academic health centers.

To accomplish many of these recommendations, the task force would ideally prefer the provision of new or augmented resources. At the same time, cognizant of not only the financial constraints presently faced by government, industry, and the educational sectors but also the oral health benefits that would follow an expansion of dental clinical research, the task force endorses the refocusing of existing resources to significantly expand national dental clinical research capabilities. The critical issue(s) or problem(s) in each area was identified, together with specific recommendations. These recommendations have a reasonable chance of success—most can be carried out almost immediately—and they have measurable endpoints.

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