The Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) has been carving new trails in the School of Dentistry, and most recently, researchers have been preparing to conduct the first clinical investigation in the new National Dental Practice-based Research Network.  The school just recently received a $1.5 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant that has allowed them to take on this endeavor.

The National Dental Practice-based Research Network was initiated in April 2012 as a sequel to the three separate NIDCR-funded regional networks.  OHSU School of Dentistry and University of Washington joined together to form NW PRECEDENT, which was one of the three networks.  The National Dental Practice-based Research Network is based out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham College of Dentistry and is funded by the NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

Since 2003, OHSU School of Dentistry has coordinated its own Practice-based Research in Oral Health (PROH), with 180 practitioners in Oregon and southwest Washington.  Many of these practitioners are OHSU dental alumni who participate in clinical studies within their private practices.

A four-year study of cracked teeth in 3,000 patients from 150 to 300 private practices within the National Dental Practice-based Network will be led by OHSU principal investigator Thomas Hilton, D.M.D, M.S., alumni centennial professor of operative dentistry, and co-investigator Jack Ferracane, Ph.D., OHSU chair and professor of restorative dentistry.  The OHSU website defines cracked teeth as “fractures that involve the whole tooth, from the chewing surface down to the nerve.”

According to Hilton, “The prevalence of cracked teeth is quite high, with more than 70 percent of adults having at least one cracked posterior tooth.”  And cracked teeth not only create problems for the patient, but for the dentist as well.  Hilton says, “Dentists have to decide whether the cracked tooth will get worse, when the tooth needs to be treated, and the best treatment for the patient.”  Researchers hope this study will help them answer these questions.

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