In 2005, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research /National Institutes of Health funded the largest initiative to date to affect change in the delivery of oral care. This commentary provides the background for the first study related to periodontics in a Practice Based Research Network (PBRN). It was conducted in the Practitioners Engaged in Applied Research & Learning (PEARL) Network. The PEARL Network is headquartered at New York University College of Dentistry. The basic tenet of the PBRN initiative is to engage clinicians to participate in clinical studies, where they will be more likely to accept the results and to incorporate the findings into their practices. This process may reduce the translational gap that exists between new findings and the time it takes for them to be incorporated into clinical practice. The cornerstone of the PBRN studies is to conduct comparative effectiveness research studies to disseminate findings to the profession and improve care. This is particularly important because the majority of dentists practice independently. Having practitioners generate clinical data allows them to contribute in the process of knowledge development and incorporate the results in their practice to assist in closing the translational gap. With the advent of electronic health systems on the horizon, dentistry may be brought into the mainstream health care paradigm and the PBRN concept can serve as the skeletal framework for advancing the profession provided there is consensus on the terminology used.