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Dental Informatics


Dental Informatics is the application of computer and information science to (improve) dental practice, research, and program administration. (Eisner 1992).


Grand challenges represent truly significant scientific challenges that if overcome would profoundly change the daily activities, as well as, the future research activities of everyone involved in the field. Identification and description of the grand challenges facing any scientific field offers multiple benefits including: helping funding agencies identify and prioritize projects for support, stimulating and encouraging new investigators to work on these intellectual and technological challenges, and providing a means of defining the field. In this presentation we will describe a synthesis of responses to questions, issues, and possible applications related to the grand challenges facing dental informatics today. The discovery of new techniques and technologies to help us overcome these challenges would enable the development of truly monumental applications such as a comprehensive electronic oral health record or an automated dental treatment planning system for all diagnoses or a system to profile patient risk for specific chronic oral diseases.

 Dental Informatics                    


Dental researchers collaborating closely with biomedical informaticians have achieved many advances in oral health research, such as human genetics and oral health disparities. Advances will continue to increase as dental researchers and biomedical informaticians study each others’ disciplines in order to increase the effectiveness of their collaborative research. The combined skills will greatly increases the effectiveness of dental research. The core of biomedical informatics knowledge, skills, and attitudes that a dental scientist requires includes: the analysis of a problem, project management, writing software specifications, relational database modeling, metadata development and validation, and communication and collaboration technologies. Not only will dental research and biomedical informatics make advances in oral health care, but they will also make advances in new methods of information dissemination that will impact dental education and patient care. New strategies in which dental education institutions can collaborate to train dental researchers in biomedical informatics skills will be developed in the near future.


The post-genomic era has brought with it a change in the way basic experiments are conducted, enabling biomedical researchers to examine biological systems more comprehensively. These approaches to comprehensive molecular analysis will provide opportunities to enhance our framework of knowledge of oral health, craniofacial development and malformation, and pathogenesis of oral diseases. Bioinformatics is a discipline that has become an essential part of the biomedical research community. Its role involves deciphering genomic, transcriptomic and proteomics data generated by high-throughput experimental technologies and organizing information gathered from traditional biology. In the future, we anticipate biomedical informatics (dental informatics and bioinformatics) and the incorporation of clinical data into the analysis of genomic information, can help further our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the biological challenges in dentistry. In this approach, we can eventually change the current practice of dentistry, including diagnostics, therapeutics, and prognostics of common oral diseases.

Electronic Dental Record

Dental care requires complete dental patient records in a redesigned dental health system that specifies that patient care be safe, effective, patient-centered, timely, efficient and equitable. To achieve these goals increased use of information technology is necessary as the profession is moving to electronic patient records. One important requirement is that patient information be portable so that it is available to all treating members of the dental care team. Care must be based on a “continuous healing relationship” where the patient can receive care when he needs it and in many forms, including electronic health education, communications with the health care provider, and laboratory results. The system should assist the dental health care provider to anticipate the patient’s future needs. It should facilitate improved use of evidence in clinical decision-making. A properly established electronic dental patient record provides an efficient means of accumulating data on an ongoing basis for programmatic review that will assure high quality dental care.

Patient-centered Care

One of the goals of dental informatics is to enhance patient care. A model of patient care that has been suggested as an ideal is the patient-centered clinical method. A key element of patient-centered care is the relationship between the patient and the health care team. Dental informatics will play a significant role in the patient-clinician relationship. For the purposes of this paper dental informatics is considered in terms of the convergence of dental knowledge; medical informatics; cognitive science; computer science, and information and communication science and technologies. Based on this broad perspective, the intersections across the patient’s dental experience are plotted in terms of dental informatics, computer-based applications and devices, and the roles they play in support of the patient-clinician relationship. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges are to better identifying the future of dental informatics in enhancing patient care through empowering the patient-clinician relationship.

Reference article

Dental Informatics: An Emerging Biomedical Informatics Discipline

Biomedical informatics is a maturing discipline. During the last 40 years, it has developed into a research discipline of significant scale and scope. One of its subdisciplines, dental informatics, is beginning to emerge as its own entity. While there is a growing cadre of trained dental informaticians, dental faculty and administrators in general are not very familiar with dental informatics as an area of scientific inquiry. Many confuse informatics with information technology (IT), are unaware of its scientific methods and principles, and cannot relate dental informatics to biomedical informatics as a whole. This paper delineates informatics from information technology, and explains the types of scientific questions that dental and other informaticians typically engage in. Scientific investigation in informatics centers primarily on model formulation, system development, system implementation and the study of effects. Informatics draws its scientific methods mainly from information science, computer science, cognitive science and telecommunications. Dental informatics shares many types of research questions and methods with its parent discipline, biomedical informatics. However, there are indications that certain research questions in dental informatics require novel solutions that have not yet been developed in other informatics fields.

Training Programs

Training Program at the Center for Dental Informatics, University of Pittsburgh, School of Dental Medicine NLM/NIDCR supported training program in the area of dental informatics, information about the 2-year post-doctoral program.


Center for Dental Informatics, University of Pittsburgh News about dental informatics, program description, practicum & thesis opportunities, presentations.
Instructional Computing Unit at University of Michigan, School of Dentisry, Intranet Projects, multimedia solutions for education, lecture notes.


American Medical Informatics Association: Dental Informatics Working Group Focal point for individuals and organizations with interest or involvement in health informatics with an emphasis on dental informatics.
International Medical Informatics Association: Working Group 11, Dental Informatics International community of dental informaticians, history of dental informatics.
American Dental Education Association Dental Informatics Section Informatics interest related to dental education, forum for communication and collaboration among computer and information technology professionals and administrators of dental schools.

Undergraduate teaching of informatics and IT skills

Dental Informatics Course Material, Columbia University, School of Dental & Oral Surgery Course desription and objectives, syllabus.
New Technologies in Dentistry, Department of Periodontics at University of Illinois College of Dentistry Technology into dental practice, technology affects on dentistry, informatics history, email and Internet use, patient management in a computerized office.
NIH Clinical Elective in Medical Informatics for Medical and Dental Students Intramural research program, elective in medical informatics.


Academy of Computerized Dentistry of North America Conference announcements, focus was on the CEREC CAD-CAM technology.
Intelligent Computerized Oral Health Record, Uppsala University Clinical management as a continuous holistic understanding of a patients clinical situation, dental record via voice input, focus on human-computer interaction.
Oral Pathology Image Database, The University of Iowa College of Dentistry Multiple examples of important lesions of the oral cavity.
DERWeb Image database for dental education.
InternationalJournal of Computerized Dentistry, Quintessence Official publication of the International Society of Computerized Dentistry, innovations in the emerging field of computerized dentistry.
Informatics Core, NYU Oral Cancer Research for Adolescent and Adult Health Promotion Informatics-supported dental research: research collaboratory, analysis of the collaborative processes.
Background. Dental informatics is a relatively new field that has significant potential for supporting clinical care. Most dentists are unaware of what dental informatics is, what its goals are, what it has achieved and how they can get involved in it. Dental informatics is the application of computer and information sciences to improve dental practice, research, education and management. Numerous applications that support clinical care, education and research have been developed. Dental informatics is beginning to exhibit the characteristics of a discipline: core literature, trained specialists and educational programs. Dental informatics presents possible solutions to many longstanding problems in dentistry, but it also faces significant obstacles and challenges. Its maturation will depend as much on the efforts of people as on the collective efforts of the profession. Dental informatics will produce an increasing number of applications and tools for clinical practice. Dentists must keep up with these developments to make informed choices.
AMIA 10x10 at OHSU
The AMIA 10x10 program aimes to realize the goal of training 10,000 health care professionlas in applied health and medical informatics by the year 2010. This training will be conducted in a wide range of settings across the United states. AMIA 10x10 Web site: http://www.amia.org/10x10


The first offering of 10x10 is a partnership with Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). AMIA 10x10 at OHSU current course will consist of 12-weeks of on-line training culminating in an intensive in-person 2-day session. (One full day of AMIA 2005 Tutorials, and one day final project work and networking with classmates and leaders in the field)The Web-based portion of the course will be provided through lectures, interactive discussions, and self-assessment tests. The in-person sessions will bring together attendees to integrate the material, allow presentation of course projects, and meet leaders in the field as well as other students.
Topics covered in the program:
  • Overview of Discipline and its History
  • Biomedical Computing
  • Electronic Health Records and Health Information Exchange
  • Decision Support: Evolution and Current Approaches
  • Standards: Privacy, Confidentiality, and Security
  • Evidence-based Medicine and Medical Decision-making
  • Information Retrieval and Digital Libraries
  • Bioinformatics
  • Imaging Informatics and Telemedicine
  • Consumer Health, Nursing, and Public Health Informatics
  • Organization and Management Issues in Informatics
  • Career and Professional Development

The tuition for this program is $2,000. The tuition covers both the on-line and in-person sessions. Additionally, 10x10 students will receive a one-year membership in AMIA.

Deadline to sign up for the current offering is July 6, 2005

Complete course information available at: http://www.amia.org/10x10