Dental Terminology: Inferior to Medical Taxonomies?

In a provocative analysis by a team of researchers, five textbook cases from dental research were examined using different standardized taxonomies. SNODENT was compared to SNOMED, MeSH, ICD-10 AHLTA Dental and the ICD-10. Researchers classified the concepts discovered in the case studies and counted how many of those concepts were represented by each taxonomy.

The findings were surprising. Even though the researchers specifically focused on dental case studies, SNOMED was marginally better at classifying the clinical concepts and matching human perceptions of the content of the cases. SNOMED also had much lower standard deviation than SNODENT, suggesting it is more reliable. The ICD-10 was comparable to SNODENT.

In order for EHRs to be effective for data mining and clinical outcome analysis, improved dental clinical taxonomies are required. When selecting your dental EHR, ask about the clinical data features. Does it include SNODENT standardized terminology? Are there other taxonomies that it can utilize? Are patient medical conditions mapped to the ICD-10? Evaluating and understanding the terminology and taxonomies that underlie your EHR allows you to understand what data you can extract, what data you can accept from previous patient records, and how that data can be used for treatment.

Lessons Learned:

  • SNODENT is a start at standardized terminology, but SNOMED classifies dental clinical concepts better.
  • Dental taxonomies and clinical terminology have a long way to go.
  • Medical conditions mapped to the ICD-10 and dental conditions that utilize SNOMED terminology increase the ability to mine data for clinical outcomes and quality control.

Torres-Urquidy, Miguel Humberto & Schleyer, Titus (2006) Evaluation of the Systematized Nomenclature of Dentistry (SNODENT) using Case Reports: Preliminary Results. AMIA Annu Symp Proc 1124.