Background: Practice-based research networks offer important opportunities to move recent advances into routine clinical practice. If their findings are not only generalizable to dental practices at large, but can also elucidate how practice characteristics are related to treatment outcome, their importance is even further elevated. Our objective was to determine whether we met a key objective for The Dental Practice-Based Research Network (DPBRN): to recruit a diverse range of practitioner-investigators interested in doing DPBRN studies.Methods: DPBRN participants completed an enrollment questionnaire about their practices and themselves. To date, more than 1100 practitioners from the five participating regions have completed the questionnaire. The regions consist of: Alabama/Mississippi, Florida/Georgia, Minnesota, Permanente Dental Associates, and Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden). We tested the hypothesis that there are statistically significant differences in key characteristics among DPBRN practices, based on responses from dentists who participated in DPBRN's first network-wide study (n = 546).Results: There were statistically significant, substantive regional differences among DPBRN-participating dentists, their practices, and their patient populations.Conclusion: Although as a group, participants have much in common with practices at large; their substantial diversity offers important advantages, such as being able to evaluate how practice differences may affect treatment outcomes, while simultaneously offering generalizability to dentists at large. This should help foster knowledge transfer in both the research-to-practice and practice-to-research directions. © 2009 Makhija et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.