Practice-based research networks (PBRNs) aim to improve clinical practice by engaging dental practitioners in studies that are directly relevant to daily clinical practice. The Dental Practice-Based Research Network (DPBRN) consists of dentists from seven U.S. states and three Scandinavian countries. All DPBRN dentists complete an enrollment questionnaire about their practices and themselves; as of this writing, 1,086 have done so. To quantify the similarities between DPBRN dentists and U.S. dentists at large, this article compared DPBRN practice characteristics to those of dentists who responded to the 2004 ADA Survey of dental practice, which is not limited to ADA members. DPBRN dentists were similar to U.S. dentists in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, number of offices, percentage of patients with insurance coverage, number of operatories, patient visits per week, days for a new appointment, and waiting room time. DPBRN dentists were statistically more likely to be recent graduates. The commonalities should increase the likelihood that DPBRN studies will be applicable to U.S. practices, thereby fostering knowledge transfer in both research-to-practice and practice-to-research.
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Effectively addressing challenges of conducting research in nonacademic settings is crucial to its success. A dental practice-based research network called The Dental Practice-Based Research Network (DPBRN) is comprised of practitioner- investigators in two health maintenance organizations, several universities, many U.S. states, and three Scandinavian countries. Our objective in this article is to describe lessons learned from conducting studies in this research context; the studies are conducted by clinicians in community settings who may be doing their first research study. To date, twenty-one studies have been completed or are in implementation. These include a broad range of topic areas, enrollment sizes, and study designs. A total of 1,126 practitioner-investigators have participated in at least one study. After excluding one study because it involved electronic records queries only, these studies included more than 70,000 patient/participant units. Because the DPBRN is committed to being both practitioner- and patient-driven, all studies must be approved by its Executive Committee and a formal study section of academic clinical scientists. As a result of interacting with a diverse range of institutional and regulatory entities, funding agencies, practitioners, clinic staff, patients, academic scientists, and geographic areas, twenty-three key lessons have been learned. Patients' acceptance of these studies has been very high, judging from high participation rates and their completion of data forms. Early studies substantially informed later studies with regard to study design, practicality, forms design, informed consent process, and training and monitoring methods. Although time-intensive and complex, these solutions improved acceptability of practice-based research to patients, practitioners, and university researchers.
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The Dental Practice-Based Research Network (DPBRN) provided a means to investigate whether certain procedures were performed routinely. The authors conducted a study to quantify rubber dam use during root canal treatment (RCT) among general dentists and to test the hypothesis that certain dentist or practice characteristics were associated with rubber dam use.
DPBRN practitioner-investigators (P-Is) answered a questionnaire that included items about rubber dam use and other forms of isolation during RCT. DPBRN enrollment questionnaire data provided information regarding practitioner and practice characteristics.
A total of 729 (74 percent) of 991 P-Is responded; 524 were general dentists who reported providing at least some RCTs and reported the percentage of RCTs for which they used a rubber dam. Of these 524 P-Is, 44 percent used a rubber dam for all RCTs, 24 percent used it for 51 to 99 percent of RCTs, 17 percent used it for 1 to 50 percent of RCTs, and 15 percent never used it during RCT. Usage varied significantly by geographic region and practice type. The use of cotton rolls and other forms of isolation also was reported.
Similar to other reports in the literature, not all DPBRN general dentists used a rubber dam during RCT.
Because the clinical reference standard is to use a rubber dam during RCT, increasing its use may be important.
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