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Year : 2008  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 170-171
Research as a career choice for Indian dentists

Department of Oral Medicine, Infection and Immunity, Harvard University, MA 02115, USA

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Date of Submission13-Jun-2007
Date of Decision11-Aug-2007
Date of Acceptance10-Sep-2007

How to cite this article:
Elangovan S. Research as a career choice for Indian dentists. Indian J Dent Res 2008;19:170-1

How to cite this URL:
Elangovan S. Research as a career choice for Indian dentists. Indian J Dent Res [serial online] 2008 [cited 2023 Feb 5];19:170-1. Available from:
I would like to share with all of you the information I have gathered over the last three and a half years as a graduate student doing dental research in the US. I would like to discuss the current research scenario in dentistry and the opportunities available for foreign-trained dentists in USA. Some of the information presented here may be biased as it is based mostly on my own observations or the views of the people with whom I interacted . This article is aimed at giving a birds-eye view of dental research opportunities for foreign-trained dentists in the USA.

   Oral Health Research in USA Top

In the United States of America, research is a very important part of any dental education, be it a predoctoral degree (DDS or DMD) or a postdoctoral degree (specialization/residencies). Dental students in predoctoral programs are very much encouraged to do research and to present their work at annual conferences. In postdoctoral programs, research forms an integral part of the degree they obtain. Most of the postdoctoral programs in the US combine a masters degree or a doctoral degree (by research) along with the specialization. So when you graduate you will receive a MS or PhD in oral biology or developmental biology along with a certificate in the specialization you opted for. Unlike in India, where the entrance examination rank is the single most important criteria for admission to MDS degree programs, research experience plays a crucial role in gaining admission to good clinical specialties in the USA.

Currently, dental research focuses predominantly on three broad areas: basic science research, clinical research, and public health research. The basic science research includes oral biology and biomaterials research. Oral Biology is a vast area that utilizes basic scientific tools, to solve scientific queries pertaining to wide range of subjects, ranging from oral biochemistry, oral microbiology, and oral immunology to biomineralization. Biomaterial research is mainly concerned with the synthesis, characterization, and testing of new or existing dental products. Clinical research focuses on patients in a clinical setting, using longitudinal or cross-sectional study designs. Clinical research is currently carried out around the globe but basic science research is restricted to a few countries. USA, UK, and Japan are the global leaders in oral biology research. Currently, countries like Brazil, along with USA and Japan, are the major global players in biomaterial dental research. Public health research involves dentists who are trained in epidemiology, biostatistics, or in health care delivery. All these different facets of dental research are directed toward a common goal, that is, 'to improve oral health.'

   Opportunities for Indian Dentists to do Research in USA Top

The three broad areas of research broad areas of research, a person, depending on his or her interest, should select a particular field and then should start applying for graduate level programs. In the US, BDS (equivalent to DDS) is considered a doctoral degree, so some universities prefer to call programs that you apply for after your BDS as postdoctoral programs. Postdoctoral programs include research programs as well as clinical programs (also called residencies).

Postdoctoral research programs include masters and doctoral degree programs. A masters degree program is typically for 1-2 years (depending on the university) and it involves taking graduate level courses in oral health research and the completion of a small research project pertaining to the field of study. Some students in masters level programs go on to get doctoral degrees. This does not mean that to go for a doctoral level program you have to have an MS; there are some students who get into doctoral degree programs right after their BDS, without doing a MS degree. These programs are called post-bachelor doctoral degrees. Doctoral level programs typically take 3-6 years to complete, depending on the advisor, the complexity of the research project, and the capability of the student. Research doctoral degrees awarded to dentists in USA, include Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Doctor of Science (DSc), or Doctor of Medical Science (DMSc); all are considered equivalent. To get into doctoral level programs in a good university, you need to have good credentials. Factors that could influence your admission include your undergraduate performance (BDS), your test scores (TOEFL and GRE), as well your research experience. Any student applying for a course in the US should take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) to prove his or her proficiency in English. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) evaluates a student's analytical thinking.

Many students who apply for the masters or doctoral degrees after their BDS focus only on the first two factors, but research experience is also very important. So doing a small research project in areas like periodontology, oral pathology, or oral medicine and publishing them in journals will definitely improve your chances of getting accepted to the program of your choice. Students who are unable to get their work published could instead present their work at an all-India conference; that would also do. The ideal time to do a research project is during the internship. Most of the doctoral research programs are funded by National Institutes of Health, USA. So, if a student is accepted for the program with a scholarship, the tuition fee will be usually waived and the student will be given a stipend.

The stipend is typically in the range of $ 20,000 to 27,000 per year. The stipend will accommodate the expenses of a single person. After completing the doctoral degree, a student usually does usually does postdoctoral fellowships, which can last from 1 to 5 years. This is an opportunity to expand his or her area of expertise to the fullest extent, and the time can be used to get positions as assistant professors at a place of their choice. Though the ratio of those going into academics to those opting for private practice is high in USA, there is still a great need for dental researchers. Writing this article gives me great pleasure and if this article creates awareness among dental students about the existence of a totally new career path for dentists, I will be very happy.

   Useful Links Top

Correspondence Address:
Satheesh Elangovan
Department of Oral Medicine, Infection and Immunity, Harvard University, MA 02115
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0970-9290.40477

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Ashitha Alex, Nagesh L, Smitha B Kulkarni, Nithin N Bhaskar, Sourabha K G
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