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FAQ: What is Dental Informatics?
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  1. What is dental informatics?
  2. Is dental informatics just another name for information technology?
  3. What is the Dental Informatics Online Community (DIOC)?
  4. What background do people interested in dental informatics need?
  5. Do I need to have a computer science degree to get involved in dental informatics?
  6. What do dental informaticians do?
  7. How can I learn more about dental informatics?
  8. What type of problems does dental informatics solve?
  9. What is the research agenda of dental informatics?
  10. If am a dentist in private practice is dental informatics relevant to me?
  11. As a practicing dentist, how do I start integrating information technology into my practice?
  12. How can dental informatics improve patient care?
  13. Where can I study dental informatics?
  14. What are my educational options to study dental informatics if I don't live in the United States?

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  1. What is dental informatics?

  2. Dental informatics is the application of computer and information science to improve dental practice, research, education and management. During the last forty years it has developed into a research discipline of significant scale and scope. Dental informatics can be considered a specialty of medical informatics.

    For more information on dental informatics research read Dental Informatics: An Emerging Biomedical Informatics Discipline. Schleyer TK, Journal of Dental Education 2003: 67(11); 1193-1200. Access PDF / HTML / Abstract
    This article delineates informatics from information technology and explains the types of scientific questions that dental and other informaticians typically explore.

    For more information on dental informatics for practitioners read Dental informatics: A Cornerstone of Dental Practice. Schleyer TK, Spallek H, Journal of the American Dental Association 2001: 132; 605-613. Access PDF / HTML / Abstract
    This article explores dental informatics growth as a discipline, its goals, opportunities and challenges and how practitioners can get involved.

    For more information on how dental informatics has developed as a field and its future read Dental informatics: A Work in Progress. Schleyer TK, Advances in Dental Research 2003: 17:9-15. Access PDF / HTML / Abstract
    This article addresses the progress of dental informatics from 1992 to 2002 in regard to dental practice, dental research and dental education. This article includes suggestions of ways the field could develop to realize its potential.

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  3. Is dental informatics just another name for information technology?

  4. Dental informatics is a distinctly separate field from information technology.

    Dental informatics (DI) is primarily focused on research, development, and evaluation of information models and computing applications. Dental Informatics has lead to numerous applications that improve dental practice, research, education and management.

    Information technology (IT) is primarily focused on the implementation and application of computer technology and telecommunications. IT has significantly improved our ability to store, access, manage, filter and apply information.

    Despite the large conceptual division between DI and IT—limited areas of overlap exist. For example, a dental informatics team may conceptualize a computerized method to organize patient history archives and then seek the technical expertise of an information technology team to help with software development.

    For more information on the development of the field of dental informatics read Dental informatics: A Work in Progress. Schleyer, TK, Advances in Dental Research 2003:17:9-15. Access PDF / HTML / Abstract
    This article addresses the progress of dental informatics from 1992 to 2002 in regard to dental practice, dental research and dental education. The article includes suggestion of ways the field could develop to realize its potential.

    For more information on dental informatics advances for practitioners read The Technologically Well-Equipped Dental Office. Schleyer TK, Spallek H, Bartling WC, Corby P, Journal of the American Dental Association 2003: 134; 30-41. Access PDF / Abstract
    This article discusses the state of the art of several technologies, provides an integrative view of technologically well-equipped office and offers several guidelines for technology purchasing decisions.

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  5. What is the Dental Informatics Online Community (DIOC)?

  6. The Dental Informatics Online Community (DIOC) is a National Library of Medicine funded project to create an open, worldwide research community for people interested in dental informatics.

    Begun in 2006, the DIOC is an evolving resource that strives to meet the ever changing needs of anyone interested in dental informatics.

    The DIOC provides researchers, educators, bioinformaticians, clinicians, students, industry, and the library and information science community with the information and tools they need to advance the discipline of dental informatics.

    The DIOC includes literature to enhance research and practice, a supportive community to seek feedback and collaboration, and announcements of meetings and conferences.

    Get involved! Sign up to become a member of the DIOC today! You can keep up to date with the latest dental informatics research, educational and collaboration opportunities. The DIOC is here to serve you. Its free! Members are not restricted to a specific discipline, association membership, nationality or qualification, and membership is free. Register here.

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  7. What background do people interested in dental informatics need?

  8. The success of dental informatics requires the expertise of a broad range of professionals. People that have contributed to the advancement of dental informatics come from a wide variety of fields including research, education, bioinformatics, computer science, library and information sciences, and dentistry.

    Find more information on postgraduate dental informatics programs at the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine Website and the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine Website.

    Find more information on short term internships in dental informatics on the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine Website.

    Continuing dental education programs across the United States provide a variety of courses focusing on dental informatics. For continuing dental education courses in your area check with your state's dental association and dental school.

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  9. Do I need to have a computer science degree to get involved in dental informatics?

  10. No. Because the discipline of dental informatics requires the expertise of a broad range of professionals no specific degree is required to get involved.

    People that have entered the dental informatics field come from a wide variety of backgrounds including research, education, bioinformatics, computer science, library and information sciences, and dentistry.

    Find more information on postgraduate dental informatics programs at the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine Website and the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine Website.

    Find more information on short-term internships in dental informatics on the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine Website.

    For continuing dental education courses in your area check with your state's dental association and dental school. In addition, continuing dental education programs across the United States provide a variety of courses focusing on dental informatics.

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  11. What do dental informaticians do?

  12. Individuals with expertise in dental informatics work for academia, dental schools, the government, industry, insurance companies, professional organizations, and more.
    Examples of the work of dental informaticians include:
    • Developing standardized vocabularies to facilitate translation of research to practice
    • Working with computer software and hardware development companies
    • Creating a new method of data input to improve the efficiency of chairside computing
    • Contributing to the efficiency of dental research and practice
    • Teaching at dental schools
    • Conducting research at universities

    For examples of career development in dental informatics review the CVs of these dental informaticians: Titus K. Schleyer and Heiko Spallek

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  13. How can I learn more about dental informatics?
  14. You have made a great start! The DIOC and its Learning Center provide a wide variety of resources on dental informatics.  If you are looking for something in particular and you can't find it let us know via the contact form at the end of this page.

    Read
    Articles on dental informatics appear frequently in a variety of journals, including, the Journal of the American Dental Association, the Journal of Dental Education, Quintessence International, and the Journal of Computerized Dentistry.

    For more general information on medical informatics search the following websites: The Journal of American Medical Informatics Association, MD Computing, The Journal of the American Medical Association and the British Medical Journal.

    For more articles on dental informatics visit the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine's reprint service.

    For continuing dental education courses in your area check with your state's dental association and dental school. In addition, continuing dental education programs across the United States provide a variety of courses focusing on dental informatics.

    Short-term internships in dental informatics are offered at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine.

    Postgraduate dental informatics programs are offered at the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine.

    Join
    A variety of professional organizations have developed dental informatics programs:

    • Every year the American Dental Association (ADA) dedicates one day of its annual conference to the latest technologies for dentists. The ADA administers a Standards Committee for Dental Informatics which creates standards for tomorrow's information technology applications.
    • The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) hosts an annual session dedicated to informatics.
    • The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) holds an annual symposium in Washington, DC that includes presentation on dental informatics. In addition, the AMIA coordinates a Working Group dedicated to dental informatics.

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  15. What type of problems does dental informatics solve?

  16. Because dentistry is an information intensive science most every aspect benefits from the application of computer and information sciences. In dental informatics the methodology of computer and information sciences is used to address persistent problems in dental practice, research, education and management.

    The research agenda of dental informatics is continually evolving. Click here for more information on the current research agenda for dental informatics.

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  17. What is the research agenda of dental informatics?

  18. The following list includes a few of the research areas being addressed:

    Dental Practice

    • Universally accessible electronic patient oral health records and medical history
    • Effective and efficient user input and output devices more suitable for chairside computing
    • Validated, integrated decision-support systems
    • Teledentistry

    Dental Research

    • Geographic information systems for dental epidemiology studies
    • Standardized knowledge representations and controlled vocabularies for diagnosis, treatment, etc.
    • Computerized data mining tools and analysis
    • Bioinformatics methods and approaches for genetic and proteomic studies

    Dental Education

    • Educational software
    • Multimedia laboratories that includes virtual reality simulators for preclinical training
    • Distance education programs

    Dental Management

    • Integrated information systems that automate routine tasks and reduce administrative overhead
    • Administration systems for dental schools to assess quality assurance and streamline accreditation

    For more information on the development of the field of dental informatics read Dental informatics: A Work in Progress. Schleyer, TK, Advances in Dental Research 2003: 17:9-15. Access PDF / HTML / Abstract
    This article addresses the progress of dental informatics from 1992 to 2002 in regard to dental practice, dental research and dental education. This article includes suggestions of ways the field could develop to realize its potential.

    For more information about the developing research agenda of dental informatics read Abbey, Louis M., Zimmerman, John L., eds. Dental Informatics: Integrating Technology Into The Dental Environment. New York: Springer-Verlag, c1992. pp. 250-294

    For more information on Dentistry and the National Health Information Infrastructure read Should Dentistry be part of the National Health Information Infrastructure? Schleyer TK, Journal of the American Dental Association 2004: 135; 1687-1695. Access PDF / HTML / Abstract
    This article reviews the goals and structure of the National Health Information Infrastructure and evaluates the implications for dentistry.

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  19. If I am a dentist in private practice, is dental informatics relevant to me?

  20. Dental informatics has the potential to transform how dentists care for their patients. Many obstacles faced by practicing dentists can be addressed through dental informatics. A few areas of current research include:
    • Maximizing workflow support
    • Supporting clinical decision making and evidence based dentistry
    • Accommodating trends in clinical data acquisition
    • Reducing practice management and administration costs
    • Understanding patient use of the internet for health related information
    • Relaying the most up to date clinical practices and information to dentists

    For more information on advances in dental informatics for practitioners read The Technologically Well-equipped Dental Office. Schleyer TK, Spallek H, Bartling WC, Corby P, Journal of the American Dental Association 2003: 134; 30-41. Access PDF / Abstract
    This article discusses the state of the art of several technologies, provides an integrative view of a technologically well-equipped office and offers several guidelines for technology purchasing decisions.

    For more information on advances in dental information from the American Dental Association read A Resource Guide for Practice Development Through Technology. Spallek, H. Journal of the American Dental Association, 135: 38S-44S Access PDF
    This article is a comprehensive resource guide for general dentists and specialists on technologies, software packages, practice management and other related information.  The guide includes lists of recommended articles, books, websites, education program, etc.

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  21. As a practicing dentist, how do I start integrating information technology into my practice?

  22. Begin by educating yourself about all of your technology options. Look for unbiased reviews on websites and in journals (see resources below).   Ask fellow dentists.   Take a continuing education course.

    Consider each technology's potential to impact your practice.  Technology is personal. Evaluate which technologies would best compliment your dental team's current workflow (these technologies are likely to be most successful)

    Recognize that there are no short cuts to integrating technology into a dental practice.  However, when done thoughtfully, technology allows the dentist to concentrate on what they do best: deliver patient care.

    For information on the benefits and challenges of integrating technologies into your office read Why Integration is Key for Dental Office Technology. Schleyer TK, Journal of the American Dental Association 2004: 135; 4S-9S. Access PDF / HTML / Abstract
    This article reviews the level of integration of different IT related products for dental practice and analyzes the consequences on work flow and ergonomics.  

    For more information on how to design your office for technology read Designing Your Office for Technology. Unthank M, Journal of the American Dental Association 2003: 135; 24S-29S. Access PDF / HTML / Abstract
    This article gives suggestions on how to design a dental office to optimize the use of technology.

    For more information on integrating technology into your practice read Putting Technology in Place Successfully. Levato C, Journal of the American Dental Association 2003: 135; 30S-37S. Access PDF / HTML / Abstract
    This article discusses how to integrate clinical and administrative workstations into your dental practice. This article begins with the planning phase and follows through to the implementation phase.

    For more information on advances in technology and guidelines for buying read The Technologically Well-equipped Dental Office. Schleyer TK, Spallek H, Bartling WC, Corby P, Journal of the American Dental Association 2003: 134; 30-41. Access PDF / Abstract
    This article discusses the state of the art of several technologies, provides an integrative view of a technologically well-equipped office and offers guidelines for technology purchasing decisions.

    Continuing dental education programs across the United States provide a variety of courses focusing on dental informatics. For continuing dental education courses in your area check with your state's dental association and dental school.  

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  23. How can dental informatics improve patient care?

  24. Dental Informatics has the potential to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and overall quality of oral care dental professionals are able to provide to patients.

    Below is a list of a several elements of patient care that are enhanced through dental informatics:

    Administration

    • Electronic insurance claims
    • Electronic prescriptions
    • Recall tracking

    Clinical care

    • Validated, integrated decision-support systems
    • Digital radiography
    • Effective and efficient user input and output devices more suitable for chairside computing

    Charting Records

    • Universally accessible electronic patient oral health records and medical history
    • Medical alert systems
    • Increased patient involvement in managing their wellness and making health care decisions

    Patient Education

    • Educational software and materials
    • Intraoral camera
    • Patient specific risk assessment and instructions

    For more information on how patient care and communication can be enhanced with new technology read Can Technology Help Dentists Deliver Better Patient Care. Feuerstein P.   Journal of the American Dental Association 2004: 135; 11S-16S. Access PDF / HTML / Abstract
    This article addresses how technology can be integrated into a dental practice, including, at the initial examination, digital photography, digital radiography, etc.

    For more information on how technology can improve office efficiency read Integrated Office Technology. Anderson LH, Journal of the American Dental Association 2004: 135; 18S-22S. Access PDF / HTML / Abstract
    This article discusses how selective use of technology can benefit patient care as well as contain costs.  It also offers suggestions on how to develop a office technology investment plan.

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  25. Where can I study dental informatics?

  26. Dental informatics is a relatively new field with significant potential to improve patient health and care.

    Find more information on postgraduate dental informatics programs at the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine Website and the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine Website.

    Find more information on short-term internships in dental informatics on the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine Website.

    Continuing dental education programs across the United States provide a variety of courses focusing on dental informatics.  For continuing dental education courses in your area check with your state's dental association and dental school.

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  27. What are my educational options to study dental informatics if I don't live in the United States?

  28. At this time there are only two educational programs in dental informatics and both are located in the United States. However, both programs are open to non United States citizens.

    Columbia University School of Dental Medicine together with Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons Department of Medical Informatics offers degrees in medical informatics with a concentration in dentistry. Masters and Doctoral students can choose from four tracks, including, bioinformatics, bioimaging, clinical informatics and population informatics. Click here for more information.

    University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine offers practicum and thesis opportunities, a dental informatics internship and dental informatics postgraduate programs leading to an M.S. or Ph.D degree. Click here for more information.

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Last update: Feb. 5, 2015
Authored by: Heather K. Hill D.D.S., Editor of the DIOC Learning Center

 

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Comments:

daniel addison (11 ), 06/1/2014:
I agree with Andre comment post. The Dental Informatics Online Community is a great web site. Coming from a Information Technology background with Health Informatics education and experience, this web site gives me a plethora of information regarding Dental Informatics.

However, I think that more dialogue needs to increase more within the communities we serve. I live in Chicago and when I speak about Dental Informatics within my professional community not many people know about Dental Informatics.
amin ebrahimsoltani (9 ), 04/19/2012:
Unfortunately, it appears only once every two years someone will comment here. I hope that dentists interested in science, informatics and new technologies, visit this site and find their interests.
amin ebrahimsoltani (9 ), 04/19/2012:
This site is very useful and I hope more dentists will be interested in dental informatics.
In the future I will try to give more information about scientific activities about DI in Iran.
Amy Bathurst (3 ), 07/25/2010:
Many dental students, dental professors and <a href="http://www.bcdentalcare.ca/CosmeticDentistry/tabid/471/Default.aspx">dentist thornhill</a> will benefit from Dental Infomatics.
dr.nair (14 ), 12/30/2009:
this is really nice and as v r starting a international journal of dental computing v can expecting participation from the readers and specialist with contibuting short communication and review article and letters to submit@intjdc.org web site www.intjdc.org

Dr.Nair
managing Editor
IJDC
andré correia (14 ), 12/3/2006:
This is a fantastic web site for us to know the basics of Dental Informatics. Any doubt that may appear to a junior research on this field can be answered with this FAQ.
It remembers me how helpful it would have been some years ago when I start doing some dental informatics readings!
I hope that in some months I can help you with some more information of our Dental Informatics activity here in Portugal.

 

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