What do you read? Who do you trust? What journals should I subscribe to? I get asked these questions all the time. It's fairly common for many of the publications that arrive at your office without a subscription to feature primarily technique oriented information, such as, here is what I use, and here is how I use it.

There isn't anything wrong with those articles. Even though a manufacturer may pay the author, as long as it is disclosed, you can take that into account when evaluating the article.


However, what if you wanted hard data on a topic like whether Chlorhexidine pre-treatment is beneficial for increasing the longevity of dentin bonding; the fracture incidence of different thicknesses of Lithium Disilicate in posterior restorations; or even the incidence of failure of cantilever versus 3-unit versus 4-unit FPDS? You are unlikely to find that information in your typical non-subscription journal.

When I was in my Perio-Pros residency back in 1979, we did a literature review class every Monday morning for an hour and a half. The purpose was to teach us how to evaluate the literature for the quality of the research, and also what the research said about a specific topic. Since then I have always managed my literature by topic. In the paper journal days, I would receive about six or seven subscription journals a month.

I would look through the table of contents of each one to see what articles fit a topic I was interested in. After I highlighted them in the table of contents, a team member would cut them out and staple them as individual articles. I filed them into a large filing cabinet by topic, in folders of read versus unread articles.

Then at my convenience I could sit down and evaluate a series of articles on the same topic. My process is basically the same today; however, now I do it electronically.

I use PubMed, the database for biomedical literature for the US Library of medicine and the National Institute of Health. PubMed allows you to search by topic, and then displays the articles in their database on that topic starting with the most current and going back in time. Unfortunately, the standard display is in abstract form, which is acceptable for some topics, but not all.

The good news is PubMed allows you to apply a filter to narrow your search and also shows which abstracts are available as full articles for free or for a fee. The platform also enables you to view related articles to the abstract you're viewing, which is very helpful when searching a specific topic.

This is not the only way to organize a literature search, but it has worked well for me for over a decade. However, it's important to question the methods, materials and conclusions to all research.

I hope this helps in your journey to better evaluate and understand what we read.

For those of you who are Study Club or Faculty Club members or subscribe to Digital Suite, I provided a detailed explanation in Spear TALK, our online discussion forum.