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ISRN Dentistry
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 276520, 10 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.5402/2012/276520
Review Article

A Primer on Network Meta-Analysis for Dental Research

1Department of Oral Biology, Leeds Dental Institute, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
2Division of Biostatistics, Leeds Institute of Genetics, Health and Therapeutics, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
3Department of Oral Sciences, Faculty of Dentistry, University of Otago, P.O. Box 647, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand

Received 22 April 2012; Accepted 8 May 2012

Academic Editors: M. Del Fabbro, G. Perinetti, J. Walters, and P. Ylöstalo

Copyright © 2012 Yu-Kang Tu and Clovis Mariano Faggion. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

In the last decade, a new statistical methodology, namely, network meta-analysis, has been developed to address limitations in traditional pairwise meta-analysis. Network meta-analysis incorporates all available evidence into a general statistical framework for comparisons of all available treatments. A further development in the network meta-analysis is to use a Bayesian statistical approach, which provides a more flexible modelling framework to take into account heterogeneity in the evidence and complexity in the data structure. The aim of this paper is therefore to provide a nontechnical introduction to network meta-analysis for dental research community and raise the awareness of it. An example was used to demonstrate how to conduct a network meta-analysis and the differences between it and traditional meta-analysis. The statistical theory behind network meta-analysis is nevertheless complex, so we strongly encourage close collaboration between dental researchers and experienced statisticians when planning and conducting a network meta-analysis. The use of more sophisticated statistical approaches such as network meta-analysis will improve the efficiency in comparing the effectiveness between multiple treatments across a set of trials.