Dental Templates in Electronic Records: The Basics

Templates are a way of standardizing information input for electronic health records. There’s a lot of discussion about who should create templates, and how customizable they should be, and whether or not they save time, but the fact of the matter is: structured data requires structured data entry. And health information exchange requires structured data. At its root, as Dr. Shelbourne (DDS) describes it:

“A template for the dental record should be the starting point for a new document—a pattern to be copied.” (Shelbourne, 2012)

For any dental practice looking to optimize referrals, engage in holistic patient care with physicians or specialists, and interested in analyzing patient data to detect trends and ask treatment questions, templates can be enormously helpful. For legal and review purposes, templates can also provide a framework for data collection and analysis.

Different electronic health record systems have different features around templates. Some allow for drag-and-drop of information or features from other parts of the system while filling out exam templates (i.e., XLDent). Some allow dentists and hygienists to build their own templates from the data elements up (i.e., Dental Symphony and ChartLogic). But at its core, a template allows the capture of structured, consistent data across days, months, providers and patients.

Lessons Learned:

  • Templates in electronic health records enable structured, consistent data collection and analysis.
  • Particularly for multi-site practices, multi-practitioner organizations and longitudinal analysis, templates can standardize data entry and ensure  consistent quality of service and data.


Shelbourne, Roy. (2012) My love/hate relationship with record templates. Catalyst, Quarter 2.