The mission of academic excellence has resulted in a science system that incentivises publications within high impact, often basic science journals, and less in application-oriented journals. For the dental research field this so-called academic drift can result in a research portfolio that moves away from research that serves dental healthcare. Therefore, we examined if and how academic drift has changed the dental research field. Web of Science data were used to develop a network map for dental research containing journal clusters that show similar citation behavior. From the year 2000 up to 2015, we explored the intensity of knowledge exchange between the different clusters through citation relations. Next, we analyzed changes in research focus of dental research institutes in seven countries, in dental research, clinical medicine research, basic science, public health research and other fields. Within the citation network, 85.5% of all references in dental journals concern references to other dental journals. The knowledge contribution of non-dental research fields to dental research was limited during the studied period. At the same time, the share of output of dental research institutes in dental research has declined. The research activity of the dental research institutes increased mainly in basic science while the knowledge input from basic science into dental research did not increase. Our findings suggest that the dental research portfolio is influenced by academic drift. This academic drift has increased the disbalance towards basic science, and presents a challenge for the scientific progress in dental healthcare services.
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