Beyond the Clinics
Dr. Weam Banjar. DDS., MS in Clinical Research, Comp.Dent (Fellow)
Dentistry is the art of application of scientific principles. Research in dentistry is rapidly progressing, and it sets the example for the value of inter- and multi-disciplinary research activities. Dental research activities require dynamic infrastructure that responds well to researchers’ needs and demands and establishes an ecosystem that supports scientific production and promotes quality research activities. Regardless of governmental support for health research in Saudi Arabia, dental research activity is yet below expectations. Absence of a clear career path for researchers had negatively affected the dental research movement.
There were very few full-time researchers with dental backgrounds. The system is not recognized as a professional domain for dentists that requires full-time commitment. Dental research is often driven by interest rather than structured priorities either by clinicians with research interest and/ or academia. The Saudi dental scientific contributions primarily produced by academia. Although academia enriched the scientific publication and research activities, projects were driven by interest. The system requires dentists to practice clinical activities in order to maintain license registration.
Full-time researchers with a dental background understand the risk of career-shift. Losing license registration is one challenge. However, absence of career-path for dental researchers is considered the main challenge. Research institutes rarely recruit dental researchers for full-time positions. Dentistry is still perceived by many as clinical activities where research is complementary. The system recognizes dentists as clinicians who may engage in research activities to fulfill an interest. Dental research is rather an industry. It might be relevant to consider the reform for the career tracks for dentistry and determine the classification for dentists based on the professional track. Establishing track-based registration should help not only develop a research ecosystem equipped with qualified dental researchers and enrich the scientific community but also it should address health system reform challenges and contribute positively to behavior modification and disease prevention. Clinical dentistry is one professional track for dentists, researcher and administrative domains were the others. The need to revise the registration system for dental professionals is evident to improve evidence based health system reform.