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Dentists undergo primer on reviewing scientific literature

Gaining a new perspective on evidence-based dentistry was just one of the pluses for participants in the ADA's Evidence Reviewers workshop June 23-24 at Headquarters.

The workshop taught clinicians and researchers how to critically assess scientific literature and how and why critical summaries should be written.

"I was able to come away from the EBD reviewer workshop training with a dramatically new and refreshing perspective on evidence in dentistry," said Dr. Joseph Hagenbruch of Harvard, Ill., a general dentist and incoming chair of the ADA Council on Dental Benefit Programs.

"More importantly, I was able to learn skills and techniques for use when reviewing dental literature for determination of document validity, reasonable applicability and even aspects of predictability."

The participants were taught how to adopt an evidence-based approach to treatment planning as well as how to write concise one-page critical summaries of systematic reviews to help practitioners understand and use scientific findings.

Members of a Critical Review Panel that oversees this program conducted the workshop: Dr. James Bader, a professor of operative dentistry at the School of Dentistry at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill; Dr. Rick Niederman, director, Center for Evidence-Based Dentistry at The Forsyth Institute; Dr. Jack Gunsolley, director, Clinical Research Unit, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry; and Dr. Robert Weyant, chair of the Department of Dental Public Health and Information Management at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine.

"It was really exciting to be talking to the leaders in the field and learning from them the science of evaluating systematic reviews," said Dr. Heather Hill, a general dentist and National Library of Medicine Fellow at Oregon Health and Science University. "They were focused on making the information succinct and relevant to clinicians."

All of the reviewers received individual mentoring and feedback to further develop their skills in preparation of the critical summaries.

"It may sound naive or perhaps a bit cheesy, but the experience felt much like investigating a new frontier or planet that was overdue for exploration and our charge was to look under every stone, move every leaf of vegetation to make sure that nothing is missed and all the bases are touched in terms of examining evidence," said Dr. Hagenbruch.

The other participants were Drs. Steven Armstrong, Kenneth S. Kromash, Andres Pinto, David Landwehr, Mina Chung, Christopher J. Lo Frisco, Michael Rethman and Robbie Henwood.

Getting involved in EBD research has been a satisfying experience for Dr. Hagenbruch, who over the years has often questioned some of the material he has heard during continuing education programs and in published studies he has read.

"At times I have experienced situations in which material being presented by the seminar speaker, in my opinion, was less than accurate or the individual was showing an obvious bias toward a product, piece of dental equipment or treatment technique," he said. "On those occasions the thought always crossed my mind of how advantageous it would be to actually be able to serve within a group that sorted out the fact from the fiction, phony and fluff.

"The American Dental Association's Evidence-Based Dentistry Program and its commitment, through membership involvement, to sort out and untangle things in an unbiased manner, seemed to me to be too favorable of an invitation to pass up," he said.

Like Dr. Hagenbruch, Dr. Hill is enthusiastic about taking up the charge to get clinicians interested in EBD. She became involved in EBD because she enjoys dental research and having it ultimately make life easier for dentists and patients.

"Systematic reviews are the gold standard of EBD and I feel like I am just starting to understand their intricacies," she said. "It is gratifying to be involved in this project from the beginning. I look forward to being able to use what we create."

For more information about volunteering as an ADA Evidence Reviewer, visit