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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Health Information Technology

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What types of health IT software exist specifically for oral health?  What functionalities does this software provide?

There are multiple electronic health record products that exist specifically for oral health, and these may contain other health IT tools as functionalities. A 2008 article from the University of Pittsburgh published in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) highlights the four common dental computer-based patient records in its evaluation of the usability of these products.  Important functionalities of a dental computer-based patient record include access to images, electronic creation of charts, medical alerts and histories, ADA codes for billing, patient lookup and identification capabilities, and treatment planning tools.

In many ways, the field of dentistry was actually in the forefront of the movement towards technology in health and the computerization of health records.  As early as the late-1960s and through the 1970s, computers made their way into the dentist’s office. Many early systems were simply the result of oral health providers developing ways to better run their offices with systems developed on their personal computers, according to an article from the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA).  Another article notes that by the 1980s, computers were mainly tools for practice management systems.  However, by 1996, the American Dental Association (ADA) published "The Computer-Based Oral Health Record Concept Model: A Framework for the Electronic Dental Health Record."  This document was key in promoting the concepts that the oral health record should encompass the patient’s overall health and should be compatible and available to other providers outside of oral health.

One of the types of health IT that is used most by oral health providers are electronic practice management systems. Providers might use such systems to assist in tasks such as patient registration, accounting, or billing. A 2003 article in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) discusses trends in the use of this type of technology, noting significant increases in use over the last 20 years, and listing potential applications which might be included in a system.

EHRs can provide an avenue for oral health providers to implement health IT in their clinical practice, in addition to administrative functionalities. As noted above, several common dental computer-based patient records exist. Additionally, some of the more widely used EHR technologies such as the Indian Health Service’s Resource and Patient Management System (RPMS) or the VistA software developed and used by the Department of Veterans Affairs offer dental modules within the larger EHR. Despite the existence of these options, there currently exist no standalone dental EHR or dental EHR modules that are certified for meaningful use.

The Dental Informatics Online Community exit disclaimer project was started in 2006 to provide an online forum for individuals interested in dental informatics. This community contains a number of resources relating to the field of IT and oral health, including a searchable publication archive exit disclaimer and a project directory exit disclaimer where members can share information on projects they are involved in, including specific health IT systems for oral health.

Related Resource

  • Project Directory exit disclaimer – Developed by the Dental Informatics Online Community.  This site contains links to information about specific health IT systems for oral health.
Developed by the Health Resources and Services Administration as a resource for health centers and other safety net and ambulatory care providers who are seeking to implement health IT.
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