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Ovid MEDLINE: Searching the Dental Literature

Below is an introductory guide to searching the dental literature. It is specifically geared toward searching Ovid MEDLINE, however many of the concepts explained can be applied to searching the MEDLINE database through PubMed, as well as other databases.


Selecting Your Search Terms

MEDLINE uses subject headings (Medical Subject Headings or MeSH) to describe the articles in its database.

  • Enter a word or phrase, click search, and Ovid will suggest appropriate MeSH for your topic.
map to subject heading
  • Check off the most appropriate MeSH.
  • If you select several terms combine them with OR or AND at the top.
  • Subject Headings are organized in a hierarchical fashion. To see the hierarchy of broader and narrower Subject Headings click on any of the MeSH.

  • Once appropriate MeSH have been selected, click Continue.


  • If you select just one MeSH, Ovid will display its subheadings.  See also MeSH Subheadings for PBL Topics.
  • Select appropriate subheadings to limit your topic or check Include All Subheadings.
  • If you select several subheadings, combine them with OR or AND at the top.


Common limits are located under the search box. Check one or more and click Search to restrict the results of your last set or enter the set number to limit an earlier set.

  • Check Review Articles for surveys of the literature with extensive bibliographies.
  • Check Local Holdings to restrict your results to journals held or provided electronically by the Tufts Libraries.

Click Additional Limits under the search box to view all limits including:

  • Journal subsets: Dentistry Journals, etc.
  • Age groups
  • Publication Types: Meta Analysis, Randomized Controlled Trial, Practice Guideline, etc.
  • Genders
  • Subject Subsets: Cancer, Systematic Reviews, etc.
  • Languages

Limiting to Dental Literature

There are two methods of limiting your results to the dental literature:

  • Use Subject Headings such as Dentistry or Dental Care and combine them with your search topic.

  • Limit to the journal subset: Dentistry Journals on the Additional Limits screen.

More Information

Combining Your Search Sets

The figures below illustrate how your search sets can be combined: OR, AND, NOT.

  • Make separate sets for each concept to allow for flexible combinations and more comprehensive, yet relevant, results. Unlike Google and PubMed, Ovid is not configured to handle long search strings.
  • Use the set numbers in the left-hand column of the Search History to combine your concepts.
  • For simple combinations, click Ovid's Combine icon, check off your sets, and select OR or AND at the top.
  • Use OR to collect synomyms.
  • Use AND to require both (or all) factors.
  • Use NOT to eliminate a set.
  • For more complicated combinations, use parentheses around sets to control the order in which sets are combined.

Field Searching

Each article's record contains several fields, e.g. Author, Title, Institution.

  • To search a specific field click More Fields, select the relevant field(s), enter a keyword truncating if appropriate.
  • Author, Title, Journal can be searched on the Main Search Page.

Ovid Documentation & Tutorials