The success of current efforts towards evidence-based health services in many countries depends on efficient transfer of research findings to health practitioners. However, there is a lag in research being adopted. In part this is due to difficulties in interpreting or generalising research findings, in part to inertia, organisational structures and information. Clinical guidelines are usually cited as being the most effective product of evidence assessment and means of getting research into practice. The processes by which they are prepared and disseminated are discussed. Current clinical practice requires that health professionals adapt to changing systems and adopt new techniques. Therefore, in future, practice research to evaluate (a) clinical interventions and (b) dissemination and implementation strategies will become increasingly important. Recognised barriers to such research include lack of interest, lack of involvement, lack of time and lack of remuneration. High-quality research in dental primary care requires academics and dental service providers working in partnership on topics that are relevant both to clinicians and policy makers. Good project management, education and training are essential.