Dental Electronic Health Records and Standardizing Dental Terminology

To exchange information between dental (and other) software, standardized fields are necessary. Dental diagnostic codes have been developed to meet this need, so that electronic health records can be shared with patients, dental providers, medical providers and laboratories, where necessary. Controlled vocabularies that allow for standardized capturing and sharing of information are standard across many disciplines, ranging from online retail to financial transactions and throughout medicine. In addition, standardized codes make billing and cost estimations much easier.

The Systematized Nomenclature of Dentistry (SNODENT) allows for capturing standardized data fields for dental conditions and patient characteristics. SNODENT is a subset of SNOMED-CT, which is standard in many electronic health records and recognized by HL-7 clinical templates. SNODENT supplements the Clinical Dental Terminology (CDT). SNODENT focuses on diagnostic and patient features, while the CDT focuses on procedures and treatments. SNODENT has approximately 7,000 terms.

In April, 2013, the World Health Organization and the American Dental Association began working together to evaluate the revisions to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), to see if the ICD-11 captures and reflects oral diseases and conditions, as compared to SNODENT. The American Dental Association’s role in developing, refining and adjusting SNODENT for use by US and global dentists has led to this collaboration, which will focus on international dental diagnostic classification.

SNODENT is not the only standardized language, however. EZCodes is also a dental diagnostic terminology. It was developed for dental communication in an electronic environment, to support dental decision support, insurance billing and sharing for clinical and research purposes. EZ Codes focuses on usability for dental providers, and is a much smaller and more dental clinic focused set of terms. EZ Codes emerged specifically for dental schools and dental providers, and has been integrated into dental EHRs.

As summarized by Dentistry IQ:

“the EZCodes Dental Diagnostic Terminology, a system of 1,358 terms organized into 91 subcategories under 15 major headings, such as Abnormalities of Teeth and Temporomandibular Disorders.” (Otto, 2012)

Whether or not one or both of these becomes standard for diagnoses in dentistry, some kind of standard will become industry dominant. To support multi-provider practices, for referrals, for ease of billing, to support dental therapists (in some states), to increase interoperability when dentists change software, and for many other reasons, diagnostic dental terminology will be increasingly important. Dental software and dental electronic health records will demand it Dental practices will benefit from ease of insurance cost estimations.



Otto, Mary. (2012) Diagnostic dental codes: Are we there yet? Dentistry IQ, Dec 4. Last Accessed 4/15/2013:

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