Indian Journal of Dental Research

: 2019  |  Volume : 30  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 329--330

Importance and implications of research experience in undergraduate dental curriculum

Satheesh Elangovan 
 Department of Periodontics, The University of Iowa College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics, USA

Correspondence Address:
Satheesh Elangovan
Department of Periodontics, The University of Iowa College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics

How to cite this article:
Elangovan S. Importance and implications of research experience in undergraduate dental curriculum.Indian J Dent Res 2019;30:329-330

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Elangovan S. Importance and implications of research experience in undergraduate dental curriculum. Indian J Dent Res [serial online] 2019 [cited 2021 Jan 27 ];30:329-330
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Research enterprise in health care, be it basic science (bench top) or clinical/translational research, is geared toward discoveries that will ultimately improve patient care. Research apart from its primary objective can also be a powerful tool in dental education to train the next generation of leaders in oral health care. In this editorial, I would like to highlight some of the key benefits and several implications of engaging undergraduate dental students in research during their program of study.

The most important benefit for students who are involved in research as a part of the research team is their experience and exposure to the research process, which are critical for them to be inspired to consider research as their career choice. I have come across so many individuals in the United States who pursued research as dental students then went on to do research doctoral studies and are currently successful in their career choice, be it an academician, clinician, or an entrepreneur. This was also shown to be the case in other fields.[1] In the United States, though the dental curriculum is packed, in most of the colleges, dental students are exposed to some sort of research experience. It can range from a didactic course on basic research methodology to actually being involved in a small research project, under a faculty mentor. Though doing research is not a graduation requirement for the students in many colleges, those who end up doing it benefit immensely from this additional experience.

In order for Indian dental colleges to make a global impact in the coming decade, research and scholarly outputs are the key metrics that needs focus. Involving students in this process and creating a research-oriented work force is, therefore, mutually beneficial and strategically important. Just like in the United States, in India, the dental curriculum is already crammed with didactic courses and clinical experiences making it challenging to implement or introduce newer elements such as research. However, it is critical that the curriculum be de-compressed to create space for students to be exposed to research methodology and the concept of evidence-based dentistry to equip them with tools for effective life-long learning and evidence consumption.

Apart from the in-depth knowledge gained by students in their respective area of research, the experience of scientific inquiry can also enhance students' critical thinking and logical reasoning skills, which are required for effective clinical decision-making. Students involved in basic or clinical research will have a strong appreciation and will be better equipped to understand and implement evidence-based dentistry in their practice. From searching articles to applying the best evidence in a given clinical scenario, they have an edge over students without this experience. Though the body of scientific evidence in dentistry grows at a rapid pace, there are still a lot of clinical questions that practicing dentists face on a daily basis, for which the evidence is either limited or non-existent. Clinicians who use critical thinking and logical reasoning skills will have an upper hand in dealing with such patient scenarios.[2]

In addition, the presentation of research findings at the local, national, or international meetings will provide opportunities for dental students to hone their much needed oratorial and presentation skills. Research presentations also provide a perfect platform for learning and networking opportunities for dental students originating from other institutions and/or countries. From my experience mentoring dental students, I can say that it is one of the most enjoyable part of my academic duties and I feel that it is a two-way learning process where the faculty has the opportunity to positively influence a student on a one to one basis, which might not be feasible in classroom settings. Therefore, apart from benefitting students, encouraging faculty members to mentor undergraduate dental students will be a rewarding experience for all parties involved. Overall, incorporating a research component within undergraduate dental curriculum is a win-win strategy with the potential to elevate student experience and produce an effective future dental workforce in India.


1Russell SH, Hancock MP, McCullough J. The pipeline. Benefits of undergraduate research experiences. Science 2007;316:548-9.
2Elangovan S, Guzman-Armstrong S, Marshall TA, Johnsen DC. Clinical decision making in the era of evidence-based dentistry. J Am Dent Assoc 2018;149:745-7.