Research in oral health and dentistry at the University of Helsinki close to the global top

Some things are obviously done right at the University of Helsinki's Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Diseases under the Faculty of Medicine: oral public health and dentistry has reached the 21st place in the ShanghaiRanking's Global Ranking of Academic Subjects.

In this year’s ShanghaiRanking's Global Ranking of Academic Subjects, the University of Helsinki climbed to rank 21 in the Dentistry & Oral Sciences category, a remarkable achievement. This rise has been rapid, as last year the University placed 37th and the year before that 46th.

What is going on at the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Diseases that can explain such results?

“We have several groups conducting research of a very high standard, focused on extremely current topics that raise plenty of global interest. Among our strongest research fields is the connection between dental and oral diseases to systemic diseases, a current hot research topic worldwide. Other research areas on this list are oral cancer, tissue regeneration as well as the evolutionary biology of the human head and face,” says Professor Leo Tjäderhane, director of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Diseases.

High-quality publications produced by the research groups accumulate plenty of points for citations, a significant factor in university rankings.

“Research conducted at the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Diseases has also produced several patents,” Tjäderhane notes.

According to University Lecturer Terhi Karaharju-Suvanto, director of the Degree Programme in Dentistry, another significant factor is the community and its atmosphere.

“We are a small and compact unit, working in close cooperation. Of course, we have our disagreements just like any other work community, but we are all of us working toward a common goal.”

Tjäderhane also points out that too large a unit is not good for research.

“There’s evidence of this from around the world. Once a research unit becomes too big, it turns into a well-equipped factory: it produces data efficiently, but innovation stops.”

Tjäderhane and Karaharju-Suvanto also highlight the great importance of collaboration with the Helsinki University Hospital.

“In addition to basic research, our clinical research is strong.”

Research renews teaching

Active research reflects positively on teaching.

“Our dentist graduates of course need to be proficient in their practical work. After all, we are training them in the profession. However, it’s also important to convey the latest research knowledge from both our own research groups and from around the world through our teaching,” Karaharju-Suvanto says.

The impact of research is in evidence, among other things, in the strong emphasis on the connection between oral health and systemic health in the studies offered to students close to graduation.

“Students are guided to take the overall health of patients into account in their work. For instance, we have a special case-based course launching next spring where patient cases are examined from this perspective. This also prepares them for the fact that in the future, dentists will have more patients that are elderly and in poor health.”

Successful home-grown research groups inspire students to take up research.

“More and more of our students actively contribute to research, and an increasing number of them also embark on writing a doctoral dissertation. Naturally, the employment situation has an effect on the popularity of postgraduate education – a doctoral degree has its benefits for one’s future professional career,” Tjäderhane states.

Research groups of the Department:

Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Diseases website