Indian Journal of Dental Research

: 2019  |  Volume : 30  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 649--650

The future of Indian dental research

Vinay Pitchika 
 Unit of Periodontology, Department of Restorative Dentistry, Periodontology, and Endodontology and Preventive and Pediatric Dentistry, University Medicine Greifswald, Greifswald, Germany

Correspondence Address:
Vinay Pitchika
Unit of Periodontology, Department of Restorative Dentistry, Periodontology, and Endodontology and Preventive and Pediatric Dentistry, University Medicine Greifswald, Greifswald

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Pitchika V. The future of Indian dental research.Indian J Dent Res 2019;30:649-650

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Pitchika V. The future of Indian dental research. Indian J Dent Res [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Sep 21 ];30:649-650
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It is a pleasure to address the Indian dental fraternity through this guest editorial. The dental curriculum in India follows clinic-centric approach, where the undergraduate (UG) students are not exposed to research. This makes it difficult for fresh dental graduates to read and interpret scientific literature of their field. Currently, research methodology in UG curriculum is limited to study designs and basic statistics, which is not sufficient to conduct research.[1] However, students could acquaint themselves with research by performing at least one study during their internship year. These studies need neither be extensive nor expensive. With some mentoring from postgraduate (PG) students or their professors, UG students could select relevant data collected from dental camps and analyze them. If analyzing data is not of interest, students could contact respective departments which could offer a possibility to performin vitro testing of some new dental materials. This first-hand experience of designing a study and performing it in planned timeline will be helpful in practically understanding how research works and also during higher education. Although the end result need not always be a successful publication in a peer-reviewed journal, a well-written scientific report according to relevant reporting guidelines is sufficient. This is of great importance, because the dentists are not exposed to scientific writing until entering the later years of PG curriculum.

Although research is a part of the PG curriculum, the articles coming out of the Indian dental institutes are still in their budding stages;[2] although exceptions exist. This could be attributed to some reasons such as lack of time, infrastructure, and funding apart from other various factors.[1] First, the time span of 3 years is limited for PGs to master their specialization, complete the clinical quota, and perform an outstanding research. Moreover, PGs start to think of their thesis topic around the end of first year, resulting in only less than 2 years available for performing research along with their clinical activities. It should be made mandatory for the prospective PG students to have their research proposal ready while getting admission, so that they could work on their topic from day 1 of their PG life. This way, it is possible to extend the time available for research by 1 year without the need for increasing the course duration. Second, the available infrastructure in dental colleges does not allow performing all research activities such as cell isolation, cell culture, genome sequencing, or simply the equipment to test the physical properties of dental materials. Rather than choosing a topic which could be performed with available infrastructure, the faculty must actively collaborate with other premier national institutes, so that students can use their labs with least amount of administrative process. This brings quality research at less expenditure. Simultaneously, the department heads should constantly seek third-party grants to better equip their departments with up-to-date technology to conduct relevant research in their field. Finally, there are no financial resources for students to perform research. Almost all PG students spend out of their pocket to conduct research activities for their thesis. This approach brings out a negative attitude among the students and graduates toward research. Third-party funding for research has to be constantly applied by the respective department faculty, enabling PG students to use the funds for their research activities. Being fully aware that the dental research funding in India is limited, institutions should allocate a part of their budget toward PG students' research projects. When the institutions send a clear message that research can be performed at no personal costs, it automatically kindles interest among students in the direction of research. There is a common misconception among students that research is expensive. It is the duty of institutions and the government to clear this misconception among the students and to show that research need not be just academic work for professors, rather also a profession with which one can sustain on.

Dental institutions should also aim at having dedicated scientific faculty by employing academicians with PhD as a qualification to further improve their quality of research.[3] This should be of main interest, because scientifically undertrained MDS graduates lack research methodology skills, and having them as thesis mentors would do less benefit to science. Apart from this, the institutions must also set up interactive sessions for UG students in each year to discuss the latest advancements happening in dentistry, to conduct mock study designing activities, or to impart knowledge on various government-funded research grants and their application procedure. This might spark interest among young students to consider research as a career opportunity, which might reduce the overload[4] on Indian dental job market.

I personally believe that “data is the new gold,” but data is meaningful only if they are obtained and interpreted correctly. The dental institutions of India should come together in setting up nation-wide study cohorts that collect dental data from representative populations. Currently, there are no representative dental cohort data arising from India, making generalization a difficulty for our population. When these state-wide or nation-wide cohorts are setup, it is possible to study a number of hypotheses and widen our knowledge on our community and target preventive approaches based on it. The future generation of Indian dentists/dental academicians should take this as one of their goals to achieve during their career. Another possibility would be to integrate dental examinations in already existing national cohorts studying other systemic diseases. Students should also actively update themselves with latest hot topics in dental field, such as omics in dentistry, 3D printing of biomaterials, and using stem cells toward regenerative dentistry. Although it is not possible to broadly implement them, it might be possible to start at an academic level.

Any field advances only through constant research. Neglecting this aspect would not only lead to less scientific advancements in the field of dentistry in India,[5] but also make the graduates use holistic approaches learned in college. Decision makers should consider revising the UG curriculum to include active research, at least during the internship year. To improve the quality of dental research, a transition from writing library dissertations to publishing in peer-reviewed scientific journals should be made in PG curriculum. Institutes should emphasize on publishing these articles in journals with impact factor, rather than publishing in scopus-indexed predatory journals that accept manuscripts for a publication fee. From my point of view, the future of dentistry and dental research lies equally in the hands of the decision makers, institutions, and students. All the players must come together to uplift the future of dentistry and dental research in India.


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