Medline search validity for randomised controlled trials in different areas of dental research

Br Dent J. 2002 Jan 26;192(2):97-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.bdj.4801303.


Objective: To determine the validity of Medline searches for randomised controlled trials in dental research (RCT-Ds), using the medical subject headings (MeSH-terms).

Design: The Medline database was searched for randomised controlled trials in dental research (RCT-Ds) published in 1999 and with MeSH-terms corresponding to different areas of dental research. All RCT-Ds were manually examined for relevance to the different areas of dental research and cross-tabulated against the Medline search results. The sensitivity, specificity, positive (precision) and negative predictive values, as well as the accuracy of the search results were calculated.

Results: The highest validity in the Medline searches for RCT-Ds was seen for endodontics, followed by orthodontics, whereas the lowest validity was seen for pediatric dentistry and public health dentistry. For pediatric dentistry the MeSH-term searches had too low a sensitivity for adequate location of RCT-Ds.

Conclusions: MeSH-term searches on Medline are a useful tool for rapid location of RCT-Ds in most areas of dental research. However, there is a vast variation in the search validity. More refined search strategies are required to locate RCT-Ds in areas of dental research with low search validity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Dental Research*
  • Humans
  • Information Storage and Retrieval / methods*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Specialties, Dental
  • Subject Headings