Clinical trials are research studies involving people. They seek to answer specific scientific questions to find better ways to prevent, detect, or treat diseases, or to improve care for people with diseases. Each clinical trial follows a set of strict scientific guidelines called a protocol. Each trial also has its own guidelines for who can participate, called eligibility criteria.
Clinical trials are a critical part of the research process. In oral health research, for example, a clinical trial is under way to find out if treating periodontal (gum) disease may help improve diabetes control. Results from this clinical trial may play an important role in improving the standard of care for patients with diabetes. In another study, researchers are evaluating patients with complaints of dry mouth to determine the cause and severity of their salivary gland dysfunction. When dry mouth persists, it can make chewing, eating, and swallowing difficult and increase the risk for tooth decay.
For additional information about clinical trials, see NIH & Clinical Research.